This year’s NAIDOC theme is ‘Because of her, we can!’ NAIDOC Week 2018 will be held nationally from Sunday 8 July and continue through to Sunday 15 July. This year’s theme celebrates the important role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have played (and continue to play) at the community, local, state and national levels. While there are many deadly Indigenous women around the country that deserve recognition and praise for their contribution to their communities and to the wider Australian society (far too many to mention individually), here at Evolve we want to remind people to not forget the land our Mother and all the strong spiritual warriors in the form of Indigenous Goddesses such as Imberombera, Gudjeri, Jillinya and Dullamarine (for whom Tullamarine Airport is named) to list but a few. Without the land our Mother, the Rainbow Serpent and our spirit women we would be spiritually bereft. They are our ultimate source of strength.
In “Goddesses in World Culture” (Volume 3, 2011), I talk about Jillinya – Great Mother of the Kimberley who created the first peoples the Gwion Gwion (ancestors of the Ngarinyin). Jillinya or Mumuu “gave women their genitals and the gift of motherhood”. All Ngarinyin women are living manifestations of her deity. Her symbol is the mandzu or praying mantis whose insect image adorns caves and other rock art galleries. Jillinya is the female embodiment of the Wunan (the Kinship and Sharing system of the Kimberley as depicted in Evolve’s logo). As one male elder remarked, “She is the greatest mother of all”.
In my book The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades, I share the story of how influential my adoptive grandmother has been in my life. Granny Canice Cox Ishiguchi was a Nyigina woman from Noonkanbah. As a little girl growing up in the bush in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Granny would share powerful Dreamtime stories of the stars and our relationship with them. Our favourite story was that of the Seven Sisters, the Kungakunranga, otherwise known in Western astronomy as the Pleiades star cluster. Pointing up to the night sky, Granny would say ‘There they are – the Girls. Your kantriman, your relatives’.
‘But how are they our kantriman Granny?” I would ask. “Because we are the same mob as them Munya. We are the same people. One people. We come from the same country.” Whenever my grandmother spoke of ‘the Girls’, as she affectionately called the Pleiades, she would do so with such warmth and love, I half expected an aunt, cousin or niece to literally drop out of the sky!
My Granny’s wisdom along with the Seven Sisters has been like my own personal constellation guiding me through life. Quite astoundingly, I was born on the one and only day of the year (April 25) in which the Pleiades star cluster rises to it’s highest point (or zenith) in the northern hemisphere.
And while we celebrate our women in spirit world, let us not forget those who remain with us today. They are our mothers, our elders, our grandmothers, our aunties, our sisters and our daughters.
Since time immemorial, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have carried our Dreaming stories, songlines, languages and knowledge that have kept our culture strong and enriched us as the oldest continuing culture on the planet.
Their achievements, their voices, their unwavering passion give us strength and have empowered past generations and paved the way for generations to come.
Because of her, we can!
(c) Evolve Communities, 2018