Marninwarntikura Women’s Bush Meetings are central to the Resource Centre’s precepts; bringing women and their children together, on country, to hear their voices and share in each other’s imaginations of a culturally strong and healthy future. The Bush Meetings have become aninclusive and collaborative forum, shaping Marninwarntikura into the holistic and responsive organisation it is today.
The Bush Meetings are vital in bringing the women of the Fitzroy Valley together. The opportunity to meet and speak openly with one another, unite the women’s voices as one. Marninwarntikura use the women’s discussions, ideas and recommendations to inform the strategic direction of the Resource Centre. Currently the meeting is held every two years, hosted by one of the four main language groups on their traditional country, Bunuba, Gooniyandi, Walmajarri and Wangkajunga.
Regional service providers are invited to attend along with, Indigenous cultural, health and resource organisations, government bodies and agencies, along with the women and young women and children of the Valley’s communities. Over a series of days the women listen to presentations reporting on regional policies, strategies and the implementation of initiatives. They can participate in workshops addressing issues such as; home ownership, childhood health, learning on and looking after country, creating business on country. Finally, the meeting brings women together to revitalise cultural practices from art to dancing and singing. Recently, young women have been encouraged to attend so they can learn from their elders to strengthen the intergenerational transmission of cultural and ecological knowledge.
In the early years of Marninwarntikura the women gathered frequently in places around the region, Militjity, Red Air, Bayulu. The women planned trips back to the peace and safety of country, away from the grog and noise in town. On their ancestral homelands, free from violence, they could speak openly, without shame, about their fears and concerns. The Bush Meetings marked important milestones in the growth of Marninwarntikura.
In 2007 the women brought their voices together to argue for alcohol restrictions. In 2008 they discussed journeys of healing and how to bring their children up in two worlds so they can engage effectively in Indigenous and non-Indigenous forms of education. In 2009 they agreed to initiate ground breaking research into Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). In 2012, the women looked to the future of their communities and realised the immediate need to support families of children with FASD. Today, the women continue to pressure government to recognise FASD as a disability so that the appropriate educational and health support is introduced to the Valley. The women want the high numbers of children with FASD to have life choices, to reach their full potential, free from fear of societal condemnation and punishment.
The women’s powerful convictions redirects decision making, away from central government, towards community led development and community controlled governance.