Koori Woman Blues
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ABC LATELINE: Black Panther Woman

ABC LATELINE: Black Panther Woman

Marlene features on ABC Lateline’s program on 5/6/14 talking about Black Panther Woman and her music in a story by Anne Maria Nicholson.  TONY JONES, PRESENTER: They marched for black power and equality, but according to a new documentary, the women who were part of Australia’s Black Panther movement in the 1970s endured constant physical and sexual abuse. Black Panther Woman tells the story of one of those women, who’s speaking out in an attempt to stop today’s violence against Aboriginal women. Here’s arts reporter Anne Maria Nicholson. Below is a transcript.   Here is a link to the program: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2014/s4019858.htm

MARLENE CUMMINS, FORMER BLACK PANTHER (Black Panther Woman): I want to speak for women who were there with me in that struggle, who suffered and endured what they had to.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON, REPORTER: In Black Panther Woman, Marlene Cummins is breaking a code of silence among Aboriginal women that you stand by your man, no matter how hard the beatings, for the sake of the black movement.

MARLENE CUMMINS: I want to see men from all walks of life, all backgrounds, take the responsibility and the accountability for that behaviour towards women.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: In the 1970s, Australia joined the global Black Panther civil rights movement, with the teen-aged Marlene a Brisbane member. While presenting a united front, she says the women endured abuse by Panther members. A pattern that escalated years later when she was attacked by Indigenous leaders she regarded as friends.

MARLENE CUMMINS: I was set up to be violently raped. I have a right to speak about this.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Film-maker Rachel Perkins, daughter of prominent activist Charles Perkins, believes Marlene’s story must be told.

RACHEL PERKINS, DOCUMENTARY DIRECTOR: I’m very anxious about this film because it’s sensitive material and I think people will criticise us for bringing the movement down. That’s not our intention. Our intention is to improve the movement.

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: One Indigenous leader corroborates Marlene’s story.

SAMUEL WATSON: I saw women used and abused sexually by senior Aboriginal men. I didn’t have the courage then to step up and say, “This has got to stop.”

ANNE MARIA NICHOLSON: Music brings lightness to Marlene’s life, but she wears the mental scars of her past heavily.

Anne Maria Nicholson, Lateline.

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June 7th, 2014

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