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“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Words used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder, activist and educator from Queensland, Australia.

In early 2007, the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education (www.erc.org.au) initiated a new International Women’s Network. Deputy Director of the Edmund Rice Centre and Co-ordinator of the Network, Zeena Elton, sees the aim of this new network as “connecting women’s movements at the grass roots level”.

“Although there are many women’s networks operating at the global level, particularly connected to UN structures, there is a need to develop partnerships with women’s organisations that focus on building stronger links in the struggle for tackling issues such as trafficking, violence against women, and other violations of women’s human rights”

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Lilla Watson

The 1967 Referendum, the anti-Apartheid protests of 1971, and the 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns of Parliament House raised an awareness of racism, colonialism, and their impact on the lives of Aboriginal people. Many Australians came to the emerging Aboriginal and Islander organisations asking “How can I help? What do Aboriginal people want?”

Lilla Watson and other members of her family got involved with such organisations after moving from their Gangulu country on the Dawson River in 1965. They, like others, felt frustrated by those questions. They could not, and would not tell white people what to do: and saw reflections of persisting colonial perceptions and attitudes in their offers of help. They needed help to liberate themselves from these: and so the challenge:

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

These words were used by Lilla, Aboriginal Elder and Activist to set out a challenge for people working towards social justice. Since then these words that have inspired and guided many people pursuing social justice. In 2007, the Edmund Rice Centre approached Lilla Watson to be a patron of the new International Women’s Network. Lilla not only agreed, but expressed great delight in being involved in the developement of a much needed network to connect women working at the grass roots.

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