The Guardian • Issue #2046


“Community counts”

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2046

Photo: CPA

In her welcome at Fidel’s, a venue belonging to the Workers’ Club, Sally Mitchell, president of the Port Adelaide Workers’ Club and the Port Adelaide Branch of the CPA, explained how International Women’ Day (IWD) arose from the activism of struggling women workers in New York and the advocacy of Clara Zetkin in Germany in the early 1900s.

Sally reminded us that women still have a struggle on their hands for equal pay as a genuine reality and face exploitation at every turn. Sally acknowledged how much she had learnt from elders such as Ruby Hammond and Alice Rigney and the contribution of grandmothers and aunties to family life in what has become a cross-cultural celebration around the world.

The welcome to country by Wendy Warner, provided a thoughtful reminder that our gathering was not only being held on Kaurna land, but more especially that the land has been looked after by the Kaurna people for many thousands of years and is still truly their land.

Spokesperson for the Anti-Poverty Centre, Raquel Araya, provided an alarming statement on the shortcomings of the current welfare system, especially in the design of how the JobSeeker allowance payments operate. These can easily be cut in consideration of a partner’s earnings. Women may be forced to remain in violent relationships as a result.

For Raquel, Jobseeker stands out more as a “punishment” payment policy, rooted in sexism and racism, as women and especially Aboriginal women, remain as the most disadvantaged under the system.

As a special Aboriginal guest at the lunch, Cheryl Saunders, a Kokatha woman from Ceduna, recalled how childcare workers there, out of desperation, demonstrated for better pay in order to simply survive.

Cheryl reflected on her grandmother’s generation along with the stolen generation, with her family having to flee to the remoteness of the Gawler Ranges to avoid the children being taken away, especially those with lighter skin colouring. In Cheryl’s view, it is so concerning that babies are still being removed to this very day in increasing numbers.

As a grandmother, Cheryl not only saw the importance of taking her grandchildren back to country, but also the need for Aboriginal grandmothers to work together in the interests of their grandchildren. In commenting on being an elder, Cheryl remarked that age was less of a criterion than knowledge of language and culture.

On education, Cheryl, a strong supporter of teaching about Aboriginal culture and history, referred to the Aboriginal College, Tauondi, where, regrettably, the government was now trying to gain control in the same way as governments still own the land under native title legislation.

Cheryl saw Aboriginal women still struggling but achieving just the same, despite being at the bottom of society. At the same time, Cheryl made clear her support for the “Voice” as it would assist communities to be heard. Also, Aborigines are still not mentioned in the constitution as yet. Cheryl recommended support for the Voice to achieve this end.

Two retired SA politicians gave their apologies for the IWD lunch. Sandra Kanck, leader of the Democrats and last Democrat sitting in any Australian parliament, who remains a strong advocate for human rights and supporter of First Nations justice. Frances Bedford, a state MP for 24 years and founder of the Muriel Matters Society, is noted for her “community counts” motto and her support for First Nations people.

A message for IWD from an Afghan women refugee to SAWA (SA Afghan Women’s support group) at the end of the luncheon, as follows:

March 8 is coming once again and women in all corners of the world are still fighting with all kinds of violence and gender discrimination. But in our land, women experience the most deplorable situation. Once again coming to power, the wild Taliban has turned Afghanistan into a hell for the women and Afghanistan is the most terrible hell nowadays.

They have closed schools for the girls, started marriages under age and widows forcefully taking young boys with them to prepare them for war and going to people’s houses for having meals, while poverty is rampant in every house and people themselves have nothing to eat.

Once again, I congratulate all the women this day, especially the suffering women of Afghanistan.

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