BATHURST Island makes up one of the many islands of the Northern Territory’s remote Tiwi Islands and sits about 80 kilometres north of Darwin.

Three afternoons a week on a Sunday, Monday and Thursday, 40 women from the small community head down to the beach to eat, sing and yarn together. The 40 women make up some of the Tiwi Islands’ Sistagirl – Aboriginal trans women – community.

“We sit down at the front beach and we bring some food to cook up and share amongst ourselves,” Sistagirl Sean Kerinaiua said.

“They’re our support days, we cannot wait to get down to the beach, we get down at five in the afternoon and sit there enjoying the sea breeze. We stay until about 12 o’clock in the morning.

“We have our traditional knowledge and our song lines and we have a sing along.”

The Tiwi Islands are very remote and despite the Tiwi Sistas being relatively well known across the country, they still face a lot of discrimination on a daily basis, that is why their tri-weekly beach gatherings are so important to them.

“It’s a good way of having our moments together… we still have day to day issues, there’s discrimination and a lot of stigma going on,” Kerinaiua said.

“There’s not much access to services. In the remote community we still have struggles to access hormone treatment if the girls want to transition.”

But the Tiwi Sistas have a dream, to have their very own and first ever float in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and Kerinaiua believed it would be an opportunity for the girls to live their lives as openly as they want. They’ve created a crowdfunding campaign to help get them there in 2017.

“The majority of the girls have never been to Sydney,” Kerinaiua said.

“I think it would showcase our traditional culture and our traditional lifestyle, it’s very remote, not a lot of people get to see a lot of our living style.

“We’re looking forward to the atmosphere. It’s an international stage where people will get to see us and our culture.

“Just being in the presence of our people and the LGBTI community will be amazing. We don’t have a large group (of sistagirls) back home, it’s very isolated and it’s a taboo in our culture, but at Mardi Gras we would be more open and free.”

The sistas have already planned to wear traditional Tiwi fabrics, headbands and armbands. Each girl will be painted with the totem of her respective tribe.

Getting to Sydney will not be a cheap feat and Tiwi Sistas have been busy fundraising in their hometown by holding raffles and will soon be organising a Blue Light Disco, but they are now reaching out to the rest of the country to help them get to Mardi Gras in 2017 by donating to their online crowdfunding page.

“We would ask the public if they have a very strong heart and that if they’re willing to donate any dollars,” Kerinaiua said.

“It could give us a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend this great event.”

To help get the Tiwi Sistas to Mardi Gras donate here.


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