Affirming the matriarchy

Murri artist and Yugambeh woman Jenny Fraser reflects on a recent event honouring Aboriginal women’s past and continued resistance to the forces of colonisation.

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Laying flowers at Maiwar (Brisbane River). Image via Jenny Fraser.

Honouring Our Mother Country was an Indigenous gathering held at Maiwar (Brisbane River) on 22 January 2017 to pay tribute, mourn and honour Women’s Law and matriarchal history and culture. Jirun Womens Council organised the event as a much-needed gathering to yarn and lay flowers, to remember the strength and resilience of the old people.

The event took inspiration from the Aborigines Day of Mourning that was held on 26 January 1938. On that day about one hundred Aboriginal people gathered at The Australian Hall in Sydney to protest the Australia Day celebrations and the inequalities and callous treatment experienced by the Indigenous community. Afterwards, at the instigation of Aboriginal leader Pearl Gibbs a group took several memorial wreaths to La Perouse, floating them out to sea in a symbolic gesture of mourning for the oppression of the Aboriginal nations that had commenced a century and a half before.

Honouring Our Mother Country though was about looking forward as well as back. This free community event included a panel discussion featuring a range of perspectives from guest speakers who represent a number of tribal backgrounds from throughout Queensland, igniting discussion about our lawful path to Indigenous Women running the country.

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Melissa Lucashenko at Honouring Our Mother Country. Image via Jenny Fraser.

The speakers on the panel were Sovereign Granny Karen Fusi, Goori Writer Melissa Lucashenko, Gurang Hip Hop artist Kaylah Truth and others also gave comment from the crowd. Melissa Lucashenko is a Goori writer who has published five award-winning novels and has received a Walkley Award for her non-fiction work. She lives in Brisbane and the Scenic Rim. A Meerooni woman of the Gurang nation, Hip Hop artist Kaylah Truth has become a respected community leader touring to remote, regional and inner city communities as a dancer, emcee, motivational speaker and workshop facilitator.

Karen Fusi grew up in Cherbourg with roots from Mona Mona and Normanton in Far North Queensland and is an active member of the Brisbane Sovereign Grannies Group. Karen fought a successful case in the Federal Court for the return of her grandchildren from Queensland Child Safety and has been central in initiating the national movement of Grandmothers Against Removals.

Dr Mary Graham gave closing remarks after the panel discussion. Mary Graham grew up in South-East Queensland, and is a Kombu-merri person through her father’s heritage and a Wakka Wakka clan through her mother’s heritage. With a career spanning more than 30 years, Mary has worked across several government agencies, community organisations and universities including: Department of Community Services, Aboriginal and Islander Childcare Agency, the University of Queensland and the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action. Mary Graham expressed our shared sentiments:

In the lead up to Australia Day, we are mourning what has been lost, and taking stock of what is being maintained and what is being re-established. We’re taking our rightful path and fulfilling our obligation to run the country alongside our men.

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Kathy Fisher and Cindy May, smoking ceremony. Image via Jenny Fraser.

Honouring Our Mother Country took place at venue partner Kuril Dhagun, the Indigenous Knowledge Centre in the South Brisbane Cultural Precinct, kicking off with healing from a smoking ceremony enacted by Kathy Fisher (Ewamian, Dungibara/Garumgar and Jiman) and Cindy May (Wiradjuri) and also concluding ceremoniously with the laying of flowers set adrift into Maiwar (Brisbane River).

Jirun Council facilitated this informal teach-in to reach deep into the community to yarn and understand roles within our matriarchal societies that the grass roots people are reviving in the spiritual movement. The event participants were also asked to wear black and pick some flowers from their neighbourhoods to bring along.

Jirun is an Aboriginal Womens Council and Think Tank that promotes the voice and advocacy of Queensland based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women. The word Jirun comes from the Kombumerri, Wanjerriburra and Yugambeh language and refers to the star constellation also known as Seven Sisters Dreaming. The forming of Jirun Council follows on from work already done by women all over the state of Queensland, and especially the Group of Women Advisors who kept the yarning fire alive in 2006 with the See Change Conference in Brisbane.

Honouring Our Mother Country is an inaugural event presented by Jirun Council as part of the Brisbane Sovereign Embassies 7 Days of Resistance leading up to Australia Day 2017. The 7 Days of Resistance is a series of actions to remind, remember and agitate and it belongs to all the mob. Honouring Our Mother Country is also held in timely solidarity for the many families who are campaigning against injustices toward Indigenous women around Australia, particularly those such as Logan Woman Sheila Oakley, Lynette Daley in Northern New South Wales and Ms Dhu in Western Australia.

A short video of the event can be viewed below:


Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 12.09.57 AMJenny Fraser is a Murri artist with an interest in other ways. She has refined the art of artist/curating as an act of sovereignty and emancipation. Jenny has completed a Masters in Indigenous Wellbeing at Southern Cross University in Lismore, New South Wales and her Ph.D. in the Art of Decolonisation at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education in the Northern Territory.


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