Racism is a feminist issue

Issue 

Racism is a feminist issue

Despite successive governments' rhetoric about reconciliation, many indigenous people in Australia live in Third World conditions and, across the board, Aboriginal people have lower levels of health, education employment, life expectancy and living conditions than non-indigenous Australians. Many indigenous people still suffer from the effects of having been stolen from their families.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women face the double burden of racism and sexism. Compared to non-indigenous women:

  • Indigenous women have a life expectancy 19 years lower.

  • Indigenous women have more children, at a younger age, and give birth to underweight babies 2 to 3 times more often.

  • Infant mortality is 2 to 4 times higher than the national average and 30% of maternal deaths are of indigenous women.

Indigenous women are particularly badly affected by inadequate health services; this is compounded by the burden of caring for the sick, young and elderly, which generally falls on women.

Women and indigenous people are the poorest groups in society, vastly over-represented among those living below the official poverty line.

The incarceration rate of Aboriginal women is appalling, reflecting the racist attitudes and practices within Australia's "justice" system:

  • In 1998, Aboriginal women convicted by local courts were almost twice as likely to go to prison, and for slightly longer than non-indigenous women.

  • Nearly 25% of all women prisoners in NSW are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, although they represent less than 2% of NSW women.

  • Since 1997, the number of indigenous women in jail in NSW has increased by 74%.

  • Aboriginal women prisoners on remand have 20% less chance of being bailed than non-Aboriginal women.

  • When they suffer from domestic violence, Aboriginal women face the dilemma of either staying silent or handing their partners over racist police and courts to become yet another death in custody.

The racism that imbues Australian society impacts also on migrant women from non-Anglo backgrounds.

Institutionalised racism, and the fight against it, is a feminist issue.