This picture of Purki Edwards AO helps tell the story of strong Anangu women and how they organised themselves in the face of exclusion from important political, cultural and land rights conversations in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
At this time important land right conversations were beginning in the NPY Lands as Anangu were understanding that they were being governed from afar and their land was under the control of government bodies. The Pitjantjatjara Council was established to support these conversations.
A sign of the times, the meetings were led by male politicians and anthropologists, and attended by Anangu men. Women were present at the meetings, watching from nearby, but were not allowed to speak.
Uneasy to be talking about land in close proximity to women, the Anangu men told women to leave the meeting.
The women knew they had their own important cultural connection to land, and had equal say as custodians of country. They wanted to protect and represent women’s law and country in these discussions.
In May 1980, in a caravan in Kalka, Mantatjara Wilson supported by other key Anangu women recorded an invitation on a cassette tape.
It said “I have been thinking about all you women from every community….I have been thinking that we women should hold our own women’s meeting. We should think about having our own female chairperson and our own women’s council.”
Mantatjara talked about her concerns for the whole 2 sides of the cassette. Concerns about being left out of important meetings unable to speak, concerns that resources for communities were only being directed by men, concerns about issues facing families in communities. The cassette was then copied and sent to women all across the NPY lands. The first Women’s Council meeting was held at Kanpi on the 6 & 7 of December 1980 and were attended by 40 women from across the NPY Lands .
NPYWC is celebrating 40 years in 2020.