Women of Colour Australia (WoCA) is a not-for-profit organisation established in August 2020. We are run by Women of Colour for Women of Colour. We exist to champion Australia’s Women of Colour through programs of education, community support initiatives, and advocacy work.
The organisation was founded by Brenda Vertudes Gaddi (she/her), a first-generation migrant/settler from Manila, Philippines. She acknowledges the Wallumattagal clan of the Darug nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land she now calls home. She pays respect to their Elders past and present and honours their continuing connection to the lands, skies and waterways. This land is and always will be Aboriginal land. Sovereignty was never ceded.
Brenda has been building women-focused communities and championing women’s voices for over a decade.
In 2015, Brenda got involved with All Together Now, an Australian, independent, secular, non-partisan not-for-profit organisation that was established in 2010. All Together Now’s vision is for a racially equitable Australia. They seek to achieve this by imagining and delivering innovative and evidence-based projects that promote racial equity. They are community-driven, they utilise partnered approaches, and their work is intersectional.
Her time with All Together Now planted the idea of one day creating a community of women who like her are continually minoritised and racialised in the white-centred society. She envisioned a community-led platform that will advocate for access and equity for Women of Colour. A safe place where everyone feels they belong. It’ll be another five years before Brenda’s dream becomes a reality.
In March 2020, Brenda’s mother Electa suddenly passed away. Brenda went through deep depression. In her darkest moment, she asked herself what can she do to honour her mother’s memory and channel her grief and sadness into something meaningful. Into something, her mum would be proud of. Brenda’s mother emigrated to Australia in the early 80s, off the back of the White Australia Policy. She lived through the racially divisive “Australia’s in danger of being swamped by Asians” 90s rhetoric. A malignant rhetoric that has calcified into our national psyche of which the harmful effects are still being weaponised today. She copped a lot of racism and discrimination. It wasn’t a talk that her proud mother ever had with Brenda. But Brenda just knew that her mother endured a lot of it. Electa was tiny, 4 feet 9 inches, but she always stood up for herself. She always told Brenda that she has the right to take up space in the world. Brenda’s mother was and still is her inspiration for starting the organisation. It is her love letter to her dearest Nanay, the fiercest woman she knows. The organisation’s logo is her mum’s digitised image.
In June 2020, three months after her mum’s death, Brenda set about putting together the plan for making her vision into reality. She drew upon her entrepreneurial background. And sought out the support and mentorship of her personal friend Priscilla Brice, founder and managing director of All Together Now. It was a very steep learning curve but as Priscilla wisely said, “at least you can Google resources now.”
Brenda found her brilliant board of directors, from diverse backgrounds, skills, talents, and lived experiences, with full-time jobs, families, and kids. None of them has ever set up an NFP before but they made it happen. The team has built the organisation from the ground up. Talk about Black and Brown women getting things done.
They had to learn quick and fast. It’s a massive undertaking but they are all ready and willing to take on the hard work that lies ahead, make things happen, shake things up, and help create a fairer and more equitable Australia for all Women of Colour.
As they stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the first and original matriarchs of this land, they humbly ask for your help. Each and every one of you. They cannot do it by themselves.
Together we are stronger.
In solidarity and sisterhood.
We acknowledge the Wallumattagal clan of the Darug nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land upon which Women of Colour Australia is situated. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present. We acknowledge and honour the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women with whom we stand in solidarity. We acknowledge that as settlers on this stolen Aboriginal land, we are beneficiaries of the dispossession, genocide, and ongoing colonial violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We believe that it is our collective responsibility and moral imperative to help dismantle the systemic barriers and structural inequities oppressing the original inhabitants of this land. We are also painfully aware that this land was taken forcibly, without a Treaty or reparations made. We have taken a practical step towards honouring sovereignty by paying the rent – and we invite you to do so too. This land is and always will be Aboriginal land. Sovereignty was never ceded.