Marninwarntikura is a Walmajarri word. ‘Marnin’ means‘women’, ‘Wanti’ means ‘big mobs of women’ and ‘Kura’means ‘belonging to’. When said together, it means that women who belong to this region, these countries and each other, have come together.
The history of this organisation, what it is today and what it envisions for the future, is reflected in its name. Marninwarntikura encourages women to come together, to share stories, listen and learn, and in turn, show support and care for one another. More broadly, ‘belonging’ and ‘togetherness’ resonates with the organisations core beliefs in long-term social and economic empowerment, its holistic approach in supporting the entire family and its understanding that Indigenous people who live here, come from, and belong to this country. When a community is safe and healthy, not only does the woman and her family flourish, but the community has pride in the transformative and sustainable environment it has helped to form.
In the mid-1980s a group of women from the Fitzroy Valley came together. They had experienced the horror of domestic violence and they felt the destructive effects of excessive alcohol consumption. They decided something had to be done immediately to protect their communities from harm and begin the long journey of recovery and social and cultural reconstruction. The women needed a voice. Their presence was invisible in local community governance structures and in formal dialogue with government. They had to find a way to represent the beliefs and concerns of the women across the valley.
The women were determined through their voices to create equitable governance for the Valley’s communities, and shape a healthier society around wellbeing and care. They began the journey with small, but essential steps. At the time, Indigenous women across Australia were uniting to stand against the unchecked supply of grog to their communities. A march for the rights of Indigenous women took place in Alice Springs which inspired the women of the Valley. They knew they had a right to oppose alcohol and free their communities from cycles of violence and harm, while simultaneously reintroducing lessons of intergenerational respect and responsibility. With significant support from their Elders, they argued that Fitzroy Crossing should stop the expansion of take-away alcohol outlets. The position they took began a long and arduous battle. At the same time, the Department for Child Protection were offering remote communities money to set up refuges. The women worked tirelessly researching how a refuge should operate. The refuge began with the employment of a full time coordinator and a group of dedicated volunteers.