Aboriginal Women's Action Network Editorial

Voices of 'Missing Women' and Those Women Still at Risk Need to be Heard!

By Fay Blaney - Aboriginal Women’s Action Network (AWAN)

When the police investigation into the Picton farm began, members of the Aboriginal Women's Action Network became extremely disturbed by the stories that were being circulated in the mainstream media. We began to discuss ways that we could make space for the voices of the Aboriginal women to be heard, and things we could do to support all women who remained in Aboriginal women, who live in poverty,support all women who remained in danger. The result of those discussions was a series of workshops and three days of spiritual ceremonies. There was a great deal of interest and many participants for these events that AWAN organized.

Our concerns were many but there were three main ones. The media obsession with the "families" of the missing women has, and continues to, eclipse the needs of living women who remain in extremely vulnerable situations. And the impunity with which the police neglected these cases perpetuates this vulnerability. And finally, the conservative perspectives of service delivery agencies precluded their ability to truly advocate for these women. When service providers fail to listen to the needs of these women, effective advocacy is impossible, and healing is out of the question. Hence, these issues became the focal point for our workshops and sweat ceremonies.

We feel over-whelmed by the gruesome and frightful nature of the fate of the women at the Picton farm. In our workshops, we felt despair as we listened to the testimonies of women who had not found justice in the disappearances or beatings of their loved ones. What our society must come to grips with is the fact that, despite media attempts to depict this as an incident that is isolated to "families of missing women", such atrocities are widespread, and are more likely to be perpetrated against poverty-stricken Aboriginal women. The question is, can our society take leadership from Aboriginal women? Or will we continue to accept the voices of Aboriginal men, who occupy privileged positions within Aboriginal society, to be the voice of authority on the missing women?

Once again, we call for accountability from the police and other levels within the justice system. The devalued status of Aboriginal women, who live in poverty, means that the police can and will get away with not responding to complaints, including not filing a 'missing persons' report, not giving these cases the attention it is due, and silencing calls for an independent inquiry. The police, or any other stakeholder, investigating their own conduct is unacceptable.

Without justice for Aboriginal women, there can be no post-feminism! There can be no self-government! There can be no socio-economic equality! The degree to which Aboriginal women have the capacity to speak in our own voices is the degree to speak in our own voices is the degree defending human rights in this land.