First Nations women leaders gather at historic Canberra summit


Plans for a new dedicated First Nations Gender Justice Institute at the Australian National University have been outlined at an historic summit in Canberra.


The establishment of the Institute, designed to give First Nations women and girls a say on policies and systems governing their lives, was one of the topics up for discussion at the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) National Summit - a national gathering of more than 800 First Nations women which aimed to bring a First Nations gender lens to everything from housing and education to economic development.

The new ANU First Nations Gender Justice Institute will contribute research, ideas, analysis and leadership to help shape the form, content and direction of advocacy for First Nations women and girls. 

It was one of several bold new approaches from First Nations Australian women for improving their future unveiled at the summit, held from 9 - 11 May, including a new National Framework for Action. 

The summit was delivered by the Australian Human Rights Commission and hosted by First Nations women’s rights advocate Michelle Deshong. It was the culmination of the five-year Wiyi Yani U Thangani systemic change project led by the Commission’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO. 

“These two new initiatives – the Framework and the Institute – will play a vital role in ensuring the interests and aspirations of First Nations women and girls are put front and centre as we move forward towards a better future in this country for First Nations people and communities,” said Commissioner Oscar.

“I’m tremendously excited about the impact these new approaches will have in terms of delivering the change we need to ensure First Nations women, our families and our communities can flourish and thrive.”

The goal is to have the Framework endorsed and being implemented by community, government and other stakeholders within 12 months. The Institute is expected to launch around the same time. 

About Wiyi Yani U Thangani

Wiyi Yani U Thangani (wee YAH-knee you TUNG-gah-knee) means ‘women’s voices’ in the Bunuba language from WA’s Kimberley region. 

Delegates issued a Summit Communique and Youth Statement outlining their perspectives, calls to action and recommendations for Australian governments and other stakeholders to work with them to realise their vision for First Nations gender justice and equity.  

The recommendations included:

  • The development of models for financial reinvestment through a First Nations gender lens.
  • Our voices, experiences and solutions to be centred in decision-making about our futures  
  • The recognition that our cultures are foundational to societal and ecological health and wellbeing  
  • Placing care at the heart of policy design  
  • Genuine and authentic collaborations to address and overcome systemic challenges   
  • Policies for First Nations women to embrace our voices equally in all their diversity, including sistergirls and transwomen, non-binary people, children and people with disability.   
READ MORE: 'No excuses': Landmark report gets $2.8m boost to help First Nations females
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