Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women possess a strength and resilience which most people cann

We are life-givers, leaders and fighters. We've overcome the odds by being here Jackie Huggins The theme of this year’s Naidoc Week is ‘Because of her, we can!’. This recognition is overdue Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women possess a strength and resilience which most people cannot even begin to comprehend. We are the backbone of our communities. We are the life-givers, the nurturers and the carers. We are equally leaders, elders, role models and activists. We advocate fiercely for our own and work tirelessly every day for change. We are survivors, and we are fighters. We are the roots of the oldest known continuing culture on Earth. We have overcome the odds just by being here, living, breathing and fighting, every day. Naidoc Week 2018 kicks off  The theme for this year’s Naidoc Week, “Because of her, we can!”, is a long overdue recognition of the incredible achievements, strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. I hope that it will also inspire the next generation of our women to walk in their mothers’ and grandmothers’ and ancestors’ footsteps and continue to pave the way for future generations, so they don’t have to face the same challenges we have faced. It’s been over 30 years since I was on the steering committee for the Aboriginal Women’s Task Force, one of a number of proud and strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who led a nationwide consultation with our women, publishing our findings in the 1986 Women’s Business Report. We wanted our voices heard and governments to take action. Since those years, we’ve had some wins but more losses. We have seen change, but the pace has been glacial. It is simply not enough. To my mind, it is unacceptable. No one today is responsible for what the colonisers did to us. For the violence, the dispossession, the massacres, the rapes, the Stolen Generations, and the brutal, systematic attack on our culture, our families, our communities, our vitality. But every single person who lives in Australia today is living on black land and owes us a debt of gratitude. They have benefitted from our dispossession. Yet, the needs and rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are continually systematically ignored. We continue to face very significant challenges, and the governmental response continues to be characterised by inaction and apathy. While we represent 3% of the Australian population, we represent 34% of the 2,600 female prisoners in Australia. We are the fastest growing prison demographic in the country, if not the world. We hear so much of the prison population in the United States, but our incarceration rate clearly surpasses theirs. Our children are being taken away from us at alarming rates. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9.8 times more likely to be placed in out of home care than non-Indigenous children. Our children’s mortality rate is double the rate for non-Indigenous children. One in three Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are victims of family violence in our lifetimes, double the rate for non-Indigenous women. There is a 9.5 year gap in life expectancy between non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. We have significantly higher rates of morbidity, heart disease, obesity, smoking and substance abuse problems. Forty-five per cent of our peoples suffer from a disability. The statistics paint a pretty bleak picture. But these only tell part of the story. These statistics become numb to the ears after hearing them so often. You only have to go into communities and meet First Women to see our strength, tenacity and resilience in the face of this extreme disadvantage. We have also had some pretty major wins which we can be proud of. We have our first ever female social justice commissioner, June Oscar, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female pilots, engineers, and barristers, among other incredible professionals. Even my organisation, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the national representative organisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples, has a uniquely positioned equal gender representation policy. Our women are fighting for equal rights - for our children and our people | Ngarra Murray Gay rights activists have paved the way for LGBTIQ+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to stand alongside other Australians with respect, dignity and pride. I am so incredibly proud to be an Aboriginal woman and for all that we have achieved and continue to achieve. I am saddened by our continuing injustices, but more than that, I am excited for the future. I see young women answering the call every day, being respectful and standing up to be counted. What do I want for the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls? I want them to grow up culturally strong, connected, empowered and self-determining, with strong identities as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Australians. I want them to have equal opportunity as any other member of our society. I want them to take their rightful place in our society as leaders and to have a say over their lives and circumstances. Jackie Huggins is a Bidjara and Birri-Gubba Juru woman from Queensland and is currently co-chair of National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Comments on this thread have been premoderated Hello again… … we’ve got a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. 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