Blak Brow: Editorial by the Blak Women's Brow Collective

We acknowledge and pay our respect to all the Grandmothers, Mothers, Aunties, Sistas, and Sistergirls, Cuzzies and Tiddas gone before us, those lost too young, and those to come. We love you, your strength, knowledge, humility, grief and anger. Youse are all Most Deadly!

Shout out to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and editors who have worked with The Lifted Brow before this, and who held the door open for this edition.

Running the editorial as a collective for this issue of The Lifted Brow was important for many reasons. Too often as Blakfellas we are expected to work as lone rangers in white corporations and institutions, as the keepers of all knowledge, the go to on every ‘Aboriginal issue’, and the incompetent to lay blame with when things don’t go well. It is expected that we are happy to fit into the individualistic mindset of western capitalism, because you want that job, right? To keep a roof over you and your family’s head, right? To be all white, white?

When The Lifted Brow approached Paola Balla to edit this issue, she saw the opportunity to work collectively and she went for it. Collective community control is something that we value at Moondani Balluk at Victoria University, a space that KJ (Karen Jackson) has worked hard to create, to prioritise real self-determination and Blak ways of working, for the best outcomes for our community.

We have been reminded of the many yarns we have shared in our collective Moondani Balluk kitchen — where we let the space feed our minds, where Blak women activists and Aunties tell stories of community, culture and being Blak in a White world. Where Blak women academics help us understand and remind us of our power in being able to write, resist and truth tell.

Collective work is challenging and requires time. It requires care to make sure not one person is carrying the load. It requires diligence to make sure everyone is contributing and the bossy ones aren’t silencing the quiet ones. It requires an ability to recognise and work to your strengths and recognise and support the strengths of those you are working with. It requires rigour in maintaining integrity in our relationships and networks. It requires constant communication to keep everyone on the same pages.

Some things we could have done better. And there will be a full and frank hair pulling and dirt dragging after the show (just checking if you are still reading). But the strength of this process is reflected in the quality of the writing in this issue.

We purposefully sought out women from many generations — some who have left their words and ideas as signposts for women coming along the road a little later, some well on their way to a flourishing writing career, and some just getting started. The works show the complexity of Aboriginal women’s lives and shows up the wooden and pedestrian one-dimensional narratives that blast out of Sunrise ‘talent’ and other purveyors of White Australia (can we please ban commercial television from hospital waiting rooms — it’s bad for our health).

The variety of contributors is also testament to the collective and our decision-making processes. We drew on our networks and were entrusted by the women based on the integrity of our relationships. This isn’t just pulled out of the ether. It is built up from years of talking, thinking, working, collaboration, kinship ties, trust and reciprocity. We sought out women with interesting ideas. With stories to tell. With hard truths. With strength. And they honoured us by trusting us with their work.

Some people we would have loved to be in the pages did not work out. There are always other pressures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women that take priority over a magazine deadline. Funerals, hospitals, jail, misrepresentation, street violence, nine-to-fives, kids, mothers, cousins, partners, dogs, PhD deadlines, car break downs, weddings, police, union strikes, wedding anniversaries, treaty distractions, better paying publication deadlines, birth of grandkids, illnesses, exhibitions, name stealing, toxic fires, tree blockades, no phone credit, sick babies, holidays in Cairns, laneway namings — we, as in the collective, the contributors and those who almost contributed, went through all of this while putting together this issue.

So many awesome writers, friends, colleagues and troublemakers are not in these pages. Sorry we missed your brilliance in our deliberations, decisions and yarns in our kitchen; we were drawn to those ‘writers’ we knew as a starting point and quickly realised that there are so many amazingly talented Blak writers in our connections and networks. Especially those who sit within our cultural community relationships and who bring to life by their unpublished words – the strength, vitality and dynamic spaces and places that us Blak fellas protect, maintain and respect.

This edition showcases the different formats in which Blak women find access to their voice and story. It is shown in the myriad of styles, it bends the perspectives of ‘what is writing?” As a collective we know and see writing as not just being a beginning, middle and end with a nice clean linear structure. Blak women’s writing can and does traverse societal expectations of being, knowing and etiquette, it can and does transcend off the pages and topple patriarchy, it can put a microscope on a moment and blow its premise apart, it can project into the future.

We hope this edition allows you as reader and writer to step outside of conventional time structures and spend solid moments with us as Blak women where we reveal our cultural community connections and relationships, share the moments that are important to us and remind you on the Struggle.

But for all you other mob, get ready for a callout for another edition! (After we recover from this one…)

The Blak Women's Brow Editorial Collective is made up of Paola Balla, Karen Jackson, Bridget Caldwell, Kim Kruger, Pauline Whyman, and Tony Birch.

Get your copy of Blak Brow (The Lifted Brow #40) here.