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First Indigenous woman at the APEC Women and the Economy Forum
In June 2016 Dorinda Cox, a Noongar woman from South-West Australia, became the first Indigenous Australian woman to attend the APEC Women and the Economy Forum (the Forum).
Dorinda is a business owner and government policy adviser and brought her expertise on gender-based violence and experiences as an Indigenous woman to the Forum. She said the Forum was an incredible opportunity to bring an Indigenous Australian perspective to a global audience.
“My participation in [the Forum] was critical in providing… an indigenous world-view that is generally overlooked in economic development,’ Dorinda said.
Dorinda paid her respects to the Indigenous peoples of the host nation Peru, bringing a message stick as a gift. She also talked to them about her experiences as an Indigenous woman, at a meeting with the Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls and Peruvian Minister Marcelia Huaita.
‘I told my story… to the Indigenous Peruvian women and we talked about… improving issues for Indigenous women and girls around the world,’ Dorinda said.
‘Having the support and guidance of Natasha Stott-Despoja as the Ambassador for Women and Girls to present the message stick… was a highlight of the trip for me.’
For Dorinda, another highlight of the Forum was sharing her culture with fellow Australian delegates and the other delegates from the twenty-one APEC countries.
She brought a kangaroo skin bag and quondong nut necklaces, made by her mother, to the Forum’s Cultural Exchange dinner and painted her fellow Australian delegates with traditional ceremonial markings using ochre from her country.
Dorinda said the response to her cultural exchange was beyond her expectations.
‘Everyone embraced and celebrated my culture and it became a highlight of the Forum because it was a first for Australia,’ Dorinda said.
‘It was uplifting to see how proud my fellow Australian delegates were to be celebrating Indigenous culture at an international level.’
Dorinda believes now, more than ever, it is crucial Indigenous women participate in forums like the APEC Women and the Economy Forum.
‘Having Indigenous women participate in [international] forums… allows us to connect with other Indigenous women and communities, encouraging us to… provide the important cultural lens needed to understand our specific issues.’