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These Aboriginal Transgender 'Sistergirls' Are Trying To Raise Money To Come To Mardi Gras

The sistergirls want to show their unique culture to the rest of the world.

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A group of Indigenous transgender women, known as sistergirls, from the remote Tiwi Islands has launched a fundraising campaign to attend Australia's biggest celebration of sexuality, Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

The Tiwi Islands, just north of Darwin in the Northern Territory, has one of the highest concentration of transgender people in the country.

The Sistergirls have been a part of Tiwi culture for thousands of years and were tradionally known as yimpininni.

Now the group wants to bring their unique culture to Mardi Gras.

"[We want] to showcase our traditional culture on the international stage," Shaun Kerinaiua told BuzzFeed News.

Kerinaiua has started a GoFundMe campaign in the hopes of raising enough money to bring a contingent of sistergirls to Mardi Gras next year. The money will be used for travel, accommodation and to enter a float in the famous parade. They've already raised just over $4,000 of their $20,000 goal.

There are roughly 40 sistergirls currently living on the Tiwi Islands, which has a population of barely 2,500. English is a second language and everyday life is dictated by culture.

Kerinaiua said that travelling to Mardi Gras was not just about having fun, it was also an opportunity to lobby organisations and the government to provide better health care for sistergirls in remote communities.

"We want to access more health services in the remote communities especially on the Tiwi Islands," Kerinaiua said.

"[We also want to increase] awareness of the discrimination and stigma we face day to day. Sistergirls don't have access hormone treatment in our community... and there isn't one sexual health worker here."

BuzzFeed News visited the sistergirls last year and found a tight knit community that has spent decades fighting for acceptance and equality. After a spate of sistergirl suicides they they banded together to demand their community give them more respect.

“We had a community meeting and one of the families wanted to know how the suicides happened, and basically they were all too blind to see that it was name-calling, that it was discriminating against her sexuality. As the years go by we have slowly worked our way up, building our confidence and just basically being out and living life as the Tiwi sistergirls," sistergirl Nyarli Kerinaiua told BuzzFeed News.


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Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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