davey thompson u equals u aboriginal activist

‘Strength in our culture’: The young Aboriginal activists changing Australia

Tynan Winmar says being Aboriginal and gay is still a double stigma in Australia.

From a Noongar and Koori background, Winmar is the son of former AFL star Nicky Winmar.

He was an ambassador for the first Pride Game in 2016.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to not only make a difference in the AFL community where it’s such a stereotypically masculine environment, but to share a part of my story that I for a long time didn’t think was that important to anyone,” said Winmar.

“It was nerve-wracking to put myself out there.

“It’s one thing to tell your family and friends that you’re gay; it’s another thing to tell all of Australia.”

Winmar has stayed involved with advocacy for LGBTIQ people in sport since being a Pride Game ambassador.

Tynan Winmar with trans activist Georgie Stone. Photo: Facebook.

“It was a really rewarding experience,” he said.

“It created a powerful platform within the AFL, because there are no openly gay male AFL players.

“It’s not to force anyone out of the closet, but to create a safe environment for everyone to feel included.”

Winmar said he doubts that anyone currently in AFL competition will come out, and it’s more likely that the next generation of players coming from regional leagues will include guys who are openly gay.

“No one wants to be that first player, that focal point,” he said.

‘They used to get spat on’

Winmar said his own father has admitted to homophobic behaviour and sledging in the past, but has changed his ways.

“He reflected on his behaviour back then, and if a 50-year-old man can learn from his mistakes and be able to change, then anyone can do that—especially in such a toxic environment,” says Winmar.

“It’s even harder when you’re Indigenous.

“Being an Indigenous player in the ‘90s, they used to go from the club rooms to the football ground and get spat on.

“That was the kind of mentality there was back then, not even that long ago.

“It was really important to use my story not only to promote [LGBTIQ] equality within the AFL, but also to promote Indigenous equality.

“For anyone that says pride games are just a political statement: well, it is a political statement, and it’s a statement that we need until there’s equality for everyone.”

‘Make fun of your oppressor’

Writer Nayuka Gorrie is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri, and Yorta Yorta writer who doesn’t describe themselves as an activist, but uses their words to educate and rally for change.

“I think black people are politicised because we’re still here and survived genocide,” they said.

“Just existing is a political act.”

Gorrie writes on black, queer, and feminist issues, and is also known for television, after writing and performing in ABC’s Black Comedy.

“The show is really great, there has been a lot of gay black men, but we have not really had any queer black women represented,” they said.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a queer black woman on screen talking about queer stuff.

“It’s giving straight people a glimpse into queer culture and queer humour, but there’s also conversations there about power and race and sexuality.

“I really like comedy as a way to balance out the shitty things in the world. To make people laugh but also make them think, make fun of your oppressor.”

Gorrie calls for decolonisation in Australia—”de-centring the settler” and “unravelling colonial structures and processes”.

“We’ve never had a moment where we’ve stopped the colonial process,” they said.

“Other countries have been through decolonisation as part of their nationhood, but we’ve never had that.

“Aboriginal people were colonised, and we’ve just kept moving forward.

“Things like reconciliation can’t really happen if we still have a colonised people.”

Nayuka Gorrie. Photo: Facebook.

At the heart of Gorrie’s work is a desire to undo racist structures in Australia.

“I’m mostly concerned with dismantling white supremacy,” they said.

“Everything I do is hopefully chipping away at that and the structures that hold people down.

“If we all do our stuff, change does happen.”

Another young person fighting for change is Bundjalung brotherboy Travis Fox, a tireless advocate for trans people living in out-of-home care.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are almost ten times more likely to be in out-of-home care, according to a government report, and the number living in care has doubled since the stolen generations apology.

The 2017 court decision that trans teens no longer need to go through the courts to start hormone therapy was a huge breakthrough—but with parental consent still required, those who are under the care of a government department still need court authorisation for treatment.

“I instantly [contacted] people who could help me out to change this,” said Fox.

“Birth parents of young people in out-of-home care no longer have parental responsibility of a young person, the department does. So what’s stopping them from giving consent?

“If they can give consent to irreversible eye or leg surgery, why can’t they do so for [this] therapeutic need?

“They choose where you live, who cares for you, everything that is involved about you, but when it comes to trans health care, it’s out of their hands?”

Travis Fox. Photo: Facebook.

Fox has also been an advocate for young people as a member of the New South Wales Youth Advisory Council, selected from more than 900 applicants to join the diverse group.

“The council provides a direct avenue of communication between young people and the state government,” Fox explained.

“[It meets] regularly throughout the year to provide advice to the Minister for Youth and the Advocate for Children and Young People on issues, policies, and laws that affect children and young people.”

Multiple marginalised groups

Davey Thompson is a Bidjara, Inningai, Wakka Wakka, and Gubbi Gubbi man who’s involved with activism through storytelling in a number of areas, including HIV awareness and fighting stigma.

Thompson is one of the faces of the U=U campaign, which is helping to raise awareness that undetectable equals untransmissible: people who are living with HIV and have an undetectable viral load (that’s almost everyone on treatment) cannot pass on the virus.

“I’ve had the opportunity to keep spreading that message even further,” Thompson said.

“I got a chance to speak at the campaign launch, and I also spoke on Triple J’s The Hook Up to keep that message spreading, which was really cool and quite exciting.

“That was probably my proudest moment, speaking directly to that young demographic who need that message.”

Thompson said he also wants older people to understand just how different things are now with HIV.

“Part of the message for older generations is that the world they were living in with HIV is coming to a close,” he said.

“We don’t need to be seeing those fear campaigns anymore, and the dynamic of the virus has completely evolved, to the point where we could see the eradication of it within our lifetime.”

He said the stigma around HIV can impact Indigenous people differently, because they fall into multiple marginalised groups.

“We’re all human, and any box that you add to that—queer, Indigenous, HIV-positive—is just another layer,” Thompson explained.

“When you’re in two of those layers as it is, it can be a heavy load.

“But there’s a lot of strength in our culture, and solace and healing as well.

“The Indigenous people living with HIV that I know have found a lot of that healing through their culture too.”

The main goal of Thompson’s work is to help fight the stigma for people living with HIV.

“They’re still really lovely, wonderful people who deserve as much love and respect as all of us get every day. That’s my message,” he said.

He added that all activism needs to centre the people it concerns.

“To quote Casey Donovan, it’s about listening with your heart,” he said.

“Let it be led by the people who are most affected by it, because tokenism belongs in the ‘90s.”

Originally published in Star Observer, 2018.

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