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Black Women's Action Group

The Black Women's Action Group ran during the late 1970s, and published Koori bina : a black Australian news monthly out of Redfern. Koori-bina ceased in June 1979 and became AIM [Aboriginal Islander Message], 1979-82, published in Glebe.


In Redfern, in 1976, the Black Women’s Action Group began to envisage Koori-bina. We firstly needed some means of reply to the racist slander published in Sydney’s afternoon press. Secondly, we were inspired by Abo Call, published in 1938 in Sydney by an Aboriginal political group. T he descendants of these activists were in 1976 working in Redfern for the same aims as were articulated in Abo Call almost forty years previously.

by Marcia Langton and Brownlee Kirkpatrick 1979
Black Women's Action (BWA) began in the heady days of the 1970s, when four women sat around a table chatting, and decided to start an information group. Those women were Sue Chilli, Marcia Langton, Naomi Myers and Roberta Sykes.

The group began by publishing an Aboriginal community newspaper, Koori Bina, which later became AIM (Aboriginal and Islander Message). BWA taught students of the Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre the skills to publish a small community newspaper; literacy, reporting, creative writing, editing, layout and administration, which eventually lead to the students taking over its publication.

Over time, BWA broadened its work and funded a number of small enterprises that were established by Aboriginal women. In 1979, BWA raised the funds for Roberta Sykes to attend Harvard University when no government funds were forthcoming. In 1984, Roberta Sykes graduated from Harvard as the first black Australian to graduate from an American university. Roberta then returned to Australia to take up the reins of BWA.

Throughout the rest of the 1980s, BWA encouraged the development of high educational aspirations in the Indigenous community and facilitated the pursuit of numerous development goals. These included a masters degree for Norma Ingram from Harvard University, and masters and doctoral degrees for Mary Ann Bin-Sallik, also from Harvard. On the domestic front, BWA was instrumental in mobilising the public and raising funds to enable Shirley Smith (Mum Shirl) to pay off the house she was on the verge of losing, after a lifetime of helping others on her small pension.

Roberta Sykes Foundation
Koori-bina: a black Australian news monthly. nos. 1-11; Aug. 1976 - Apr. 1978. Redfern, N.S.W., Black Women’s Action Committee. Incorporated in AIM Glebe. 1979

Black women's action 1987 : special bicentennial and anniversary edition Black Women's Action, Redfern, NSW
'A special bicentennial newsletter to commemorate the last year of Black freedom and self-government in Australia and to mark the twentieth anniversary of the recognition of Aboriginal citizenship of Australia'
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