“In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard. We leave base camp and start our trek across this vast country. We invite you to walk with us in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.” Uluru Statement from the Heart
As a women’s hiking community spanning nearly 20 years, we have hiked many of the lands that have been walked by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians for over 60,000 years.
Our social connection to First Nations communities commenced in 2009 when we partnered with The Fred Hollows Foundation, and subsequently raised tens of millions of dollars to restore sight and end avoidable blindness in remote communities.
We were joined by trekkers from as far away as the Tiwi Islands with Coastrek Ambassadors Adnyamathanha man Adam Goode, Yinjibarndi woman Jody Broun and Gamilaroi woman Brook Boney helping inspire us all.
This support for First Nations health continues today through our partnership with the Heart Foundation, which is dedicated to ending Rheumatic Heart Disease – an entirely preventable disease most prevalent in remote communities.
But it wasn’t until we sat in the red dust at the mouth of the majestic Standley Chasm whilst hiking on Arrente country in the Northern Territory in 2015 that I first understood the heart of the problem.
On a Wild Women On Top adventure, we met with our guide, Arrente woman, Deanella Mack who explained caring for country is the source of their health and wellbeing.
The land provides shelter, food, water, physical activity, rest, and connection – and it is the women who traditionally take responsibility for the health of their families and communities. Displacement from the land has had a generational impact.
Yankunyjatjara and Wirangu woman, and Coastrek Ambassador, Shelley Ware says:
“The impact of colonialism continues to be felt today with high levels of poverty, poor health outcomes, and overrepresentation in the prison system, among other challenges.
“We’re still underrepresented in key decision-making, especially when it comes to policies and programs that affect our communities. Our voices have often been ignored and our views have not been given equal weight to other stakeholders.
“The establishment of a Voice will help to address these historical issues by giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders a direct say.”
This sentiment is echoed by respected First Nations activist Noel Pearson, a proud leader from the Guugu Yimidhirr community, who advocates for decisions to be made out of ‘love not fear’, describing the referendum as ‘the most important vote since Federation’ that will lead to a more unified country.
We believe First Nations people deserve to be given the opportunity to help provide culturally appropriate local solutions to local problems, with a voice in parliament that cannot be silenced or revoked with a change of government.
This is why we support the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was created from the widest survey of the views of First Nations peoples ever undertaken. It is a deeply respectful invitation to all Australians to support a better future. (Listen here)
For those of us who have had the opportunity to hike the spectacular coastal trails of Gadigal (Sydney), Boon Wurrung / Bunurong (Mornington Peninsula), Kabi Kabi/Jinibara (Sunshine Coast), Ngarrindjeri (Fleurieu Peninsula), and Wadandi/Pibelmen Boodja (Margaret River), or the ancient land of Jatbula or the home of the Arrernte people (Larapinta), the breath-taking cliffs of the Pydairrerme, (Tasman Peninsula), or the hundreds of other wilderness trails around our beautiful country, it’s impossible not to feel grateful for the majesty that has been preserved here for us all to enjoy.
We too believe love not fear should win the day, and accept this loving invitation to trek together in support of First Nations voices and a movement of the Australian people for a better future. For these reasons we at Wild Women support the Voice to Parliament.