Gay Australia Aborigine Resources

From Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) at


This section looks at homophobia and its impact on Indigenous people

Those from the first peoples of the land and sea in Australia. We have a 200+ year history of invasion, dispossession and conflict between the original inhabitants and mainstream Australia. Non-Indigenous people are only beginning to acknowledge this. Meanwhile, Indigenous people have survived, adapted and overcome displacement.

This section recognises that there will be different questions and answers for Indigenous peoples in Australia. These Indigenous peoples are Aboriginal Australians, Torres Strait Island peoples, and those who have been taken from culture and family and may now know little of their heritage and history.

Indigenous and gay?

We know that Australia was home to hundreds of different clan groups with different languages and Dreamings. Attitudes towards sex, sexuality and homosexuality varied across different groups of Indigenous peoples. The impact of western cultures has also been different. Government policies, church missions, and forced adoption and fostering of children have had different impacts on different groups. All these factors still do.

Many Indigenous communities had/have a place for people who identify as ‘sistergirls’. This term is used affectionately between Aboriginal women. It is also used to identify people who identify as transgender or transsexual. There is no one term within all Indigenous communities which covers lesbians, gay men and sistergirls. Some communities used terms like ‘Two-one’ to show their view that two spirits (both male and female) lived within one person.

All Indigenous groups placed and still place a high priority on family, community and the wisdom and authority of Elders. These values remain important for all Indigenous peoples. Indigenous Australians may experience harassment, discrimination and violence to a greater level than do non-Indigenous people. They experience violence against them because of racism as well as homophobia.

Impact of violence

Indigenous peoples are far over-represented as victims/survivors of violence. It is likely that they experience greater levels of homophobic violence. There is no evidence to show that Indigenous people are more likely to be violent against lesbians and gay men. Anecdotal evidence suggests the opposite.

Many Indigenous people have had their life opportunities limited and defined by other people and mainstream Australian culture. Family and culture are very important for most Indigenous people. Those who identify as lesbian, gay transgender or sistergirl have to find a place within their own communities as well as deal with wider racism and homophobia. This may mean not being able to be fully part of either culture.

There is some evidence that those who have anti-lesbian and anti-gay attitudes are also likely to be racist. Indigenous lesbians, gay men and sistergirls are likely to experience higher levels of violence than non-Indigenous gays and lesbians.

Dealing with violence

Use the same strategies listed in this website to tackle homophobic violence. Don’t forget that racism will play an major part in any violence against Indigenous Australians. Link up with organisations working against racism too.
Some specific people and groups will be important if you are working with Indigenous peoples:
= Aboriginal Elders from the local community
= Aboriginal Parents and Citizens Associations (ASSPA Committees) at schools
= Aboriginal community organizations like Land Councils, Councils of Elders
= Aboriginal service providers like Aboriginal Corporations
= The Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project (AVP) has specific resources for Indigenous communities, 02 9360 6687 or 1800 637 360 or visit their website at

Black and gay?

Yes, there are Indigenous people who are lesbian, gay or sistergirl. Read one person’s story.
If you are a gay, lesbian or sistergirl Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, you will find the following organizations useful:
= Blackout – for social networks and support
= Black and White and Pink – working towards reconciliation between mainstream Australians who are homosexual and Indigenous Australians,
= ACON Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Unit – HIV and health education and support services, 02 9206 2000 or 1800 063 060, or the website at
= Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations (AFAO) – national body dealing with HIV and AIDS which has specific programs for Indigenous Australians, 02 9281 1999 or the website at
= Twenty Ten Gay and Lesbian Youth and Family Services has a history of working with Indigenous young people who are gay/lesbian and homeless, 02 9552 6130 or

Know someone?

If you know people who are Indigenous and lesbian, gay or sistergirl, make sure you:
= learn about your own racism and your attitudes towards Indigenous people
= support them to maintain family and cultural ties
= recognise the value and respect they show to family and Elders
= link them into the organizations above
= talk honestly with them about sexuality and racism.

You can learn more about the history and culture Indigenous Australians from:

= Aboriginal History and Culture Research Project at
= Deadly Vibe magazine at
= Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) at
= Koorinet at
= Together we do Better

We all need to:

= challenge racism in every day life
= acknowledge the links between racism and homophobia.

Use this website to help you understand how to deal with homophobia. Send us material which will help add to the knowledge and understanding about homophobia and Indigenous peoples, to

Further information

The Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project has some material about homophobia and Indigenous people on their website at You can also download some anti-homophobia resources designed for work with Indigneous communities from this site.

Thanks to the AVP Indigenous Working Group for their ideas and support for the AVP’s work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This group included: Liza-Mare Syron, Sam Barsah, Dallas Webster, Lennie Wellington, Bobby Jaru, Louise Roe, Kooncha Brown, Romaine Moreton, Sue Wood, Jason Hoskins, Naomi Mayers, Chris Lawrence, Dulcie Flowers, Olivia Bright, Bev Briggs, Tracey Duroux, Joseph Mayers, Derek Walker, Francine Hollingsworth, Tony Creighton. The AVP thanks Harold Thomas (08 8988 2443 or PO Box 47108, Darwin, NT 0811) for permission to use the Aboriginal flag design on fridge magnets and posters that were produced as part of the anti-homophobia campaign which developed this website.