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    This Is What It Is Like To Be An Indigenous Woman Online

    Threats, racism, and misogyny.


    Nearly half (48%) of Australian women surveyed in a poll released last week who had experienced online abuse or harassment said it had included racism, sexism, homophobia or transphobia.

    We talked to four Indigenous women about their experiences online.

    Dr. Chelsea Bond, a Munanjahli and South Sea Islander woman, is a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland. On Facebook and Twitter, and in the comments section of articles she has authored, people have called her a "petrol sniffer","heroin addict" and criticised her parenting abilities.

    "On Twitter, when I recognise a troll I block them immediately, and that's not to say I don't have debates and discussions with people, but some people are so blatantly racist and misogynistic," told BuzzFeed News.

    Bond said Indigenous women have to deal with abuse which is characterised simultaneously by race and gender.

    "This is not just about disagreeing with Aboriginal women, it is that we are supposed to know our place in relation to white people and in relation to men," she said.

    "No-one has threatened to kill or gang rape [Indigenous businessman and former Labor Party president] Warren Mundine."

    A more subtle way Indigenous women were undermined online, Bond said, is when non-Indigenous Australians, "especially white men", constantly expect her to educate them on how to be better allies.

    "Black women have always been in service roles and so when we refuse to service white fellas we are seen as being aggressive," she said.

    But Bond stays online because she finds social media "nourishing" at times: "It has been really joyous to see Aboriginal women standing collectively and looking out for each other and I get solidarity from the sisterhood.

    "I see benefits in Twitter but there is a lot of thought that goes into how we play in these spaces."

    Bond, who has worked as an Aboriginal health worker and researcher in communities across southeast Queensland for two decades, said she worries about the impact having to be "strong all the time" has on her ability to "feel things".

    "[Indigenous women] have had to be so strong and that has a toll on us," she said.

    "It is a weird psychological battle in the sense that I don't want to allow it to affect me, but the process of not letting it affect you can be dehumanising in a different way and we become desensitised to the reality of abuse."

    This is a feeling that actor, playwright and author Nakkiah Lui knows well.

    "It makes you so tired and I hate even admitting to that because my career and my work is so important to me, and I hate the idea of anyone having power to make me tired," the Gamillaroi and Torres Strait Islander screenwriter told BuzzFeed News.

    "It has definitely made me anxious in ways I never knew before, and sometimes I get my partner to check my messages. It takes its toll and it wears you out."

    Lui receives abusive messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    "I had this one guy who wouldn't leave me alone for ages and I was doing a lot of public events, and you start getting scared like, 'Is it possible that someone would come here and try to hurt me?'"

    Why is mentioning that someone is Male or White considered some kind of insult when my race and gender is literally… https://t.co/RUSOUYCKy6

    "We think of it as anonymous trolls, but what they say is always being validated by our executive politicians and by people in leadership positions who say outlandish things with no consequences."

    Lui's first encounter of abuse online began after literary and cultural journal Quadrant published a review of one of her plays.

    "They went through my parents' financial records and said pretty horrible ... things and said I wasn't Aboriginal enough to tell the story," she said.

    "I get that a lot, like I'm too fair and not Aboriginal enough, but I'm Aboriginal enough to be a 'stupid abo'."

    Gunaikurnai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta writer Nayuka Gorrie said she receives the most abuse in the days following the publication of an article.

    Thinking Australia was made better because of colonisation is white supremacy

    "I'll get a few days of people @ing me telling me I'm unattractive or whatever and asking why I'm a racist and why I hate white people so much," Gorrie told BuzzFeed News.

    "They use whatever weapons they feel they can use, whether it is your looks or sexuality or threats of violence.

    "I don't get it as bad as other people, but sometimes I find it really hard if something shit has happened in my personal life, or if there is something happening in the Aboriginal community, that's hard."

    People have made memes about her and trolled her Facebook, she said.

    Gorrie is concerned about the impact online abuse can have in silencing Indigenous voices in public discourse.

    "This ultimately limits what black people feel they are allowed to say, and if it is not harassment by weird sweaty red-faced losers on the internet, if you have enough of a profile, it is going to be harassment from the [Rupert] Murdoch press which keeps trying to silence people like [author and engineer] Yasmin [Abdel-Magied] and [Aboriginal activist] Tarneen [Onus-Williams]."

    It is clear most of the people who abuse her online haven't read or listened to her work, Gorrie said.

    "They are angry you have the audacity to exist and to say something, so they are interested in making you feel like shit so you're deterred from ever existing publicly ever again," she said.

    "I know they say 'don't feed the trolls' but if I feel like it is a teachable moment I will quote tweet [an abusive comment] just to let people know that I'm not sharing everything that happens, but this is what the abuse looks like because otherwise you're going through it alone."

    Victoria's first female Aboriginal MP, the Greens Party's Lidia Thorpe received death and rape threats last month after she called for Australian flags to be flown at half-mast on Australia Day.

    Mal Fairclough / AAPIMAGE

    Lidia Thorpe with Victorian senator Richard Di Natale.

    "The threats I receive are incredibly tough for me, my staff and my family," Thorpe told BuzzFeed News.

    "Everything from racial slurs to direct threats on my life and the lives of those I love and care about."

    But Thorpe said she has taught her daughters to stand up to bullies and that is what she would continue to do herself.

    "I will not live in fear...all too often threats of violence are used as a way to silence women in public life," she said. "Because I believe I have something to say that matters and I have every right to be heard, just like anyone else."

    Thorpe said the threats affected her wellbeing, but said there wasn't a single Aboriginal person whose mental health wasn't affected "by the dispossession of their lands and the systematic oppression of their language, culture and history".

    Gina Rushton is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

    Contact Gina Rushton at gina.rushton@buzzfeed.com.

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