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She says one of the biggest misconceptions is that sistergirls only come from the Northern Territory. Lisa believes the biggest issue is discrimination, and recounts a time last year when she had to report an assault to the police. She was told that she would have to report the assault using her old name, which she changed over 30 years ago — effectively outing her as trans to her attacker and putting her in further danger.


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After a number of weeks, the issue was resolved and Lisa was finally able to complete the paperwork with her correct details. Another significant issue Lisa sees for sistergirls is isolation, and access to community and services, particularly for those in rural areas.


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A lot of work needs to be done. Members of the family may work there, so they may not want to talk about it for fear of being outed. But while awareness may be increasing, acceptance from the wider community lags behind. I think with the introduction of colonisation and religion and other beliefs, a lot of that stuff has been lost. Less well-known than sistergirls for most people are brotherboys, Aboriginal trans men. Travis is a year-old Bundjalung brotherboy from the Tweed Coast.

Growing up in foster care, he found the system made it difficult for him to change the details on his identification. The wider community can be less accepting. Taz, 19, is a brotherboy from the Kalkadoon and Bwgcolman nations in Queensland. He currently lives in Toowoomba. Taz says being a brotherboy is different to being a trans guy in the wider community in that there are other cultural aspects of gender. Growing up under Child Safety Services, Taz found the same problems as Travis in having his identity documents updated.

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A healing circle was formed and their hands gripped each other's tightly, before there was an eruption of cheers. About 85 transgender and gender-diverse Indigenous people came from around Australia to Wurundjeri country in Victoria for Kunghah, which means "gathering" in Ngarigo language. Many of the people there, who had flown in from as far as north Queensland and the Tiwi Islands, sought comfort in meeting others who understand their identity struggle both as a trans or gender-diverse person, and as an Indigenous person.

The year-old sistergirl from south-west Western Australia became a ward of the state as a teenager, after she repeatedly ran away from home.

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So I grew up with this very confused idea that I was a female because I was being called some grown-up man's girlfriend, and as I got older, started to appreciate that's not how it's supposed to be," she said. A former drag queen, the past 18 years of her adult life have been spent improving Aboriginal health standards and providing support to other transgender Indigenous people. Which is why I've spent most of my life in NSW.

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I found other brotherboys and they took me in. I feel as though the discussions we've been having, the feeling is very much that people are giving each other acknowledgement and love, and really stepping up to care for one another.

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It's also a chance to build my support networks and to yarn about personal stuff that others in my community just don't understand. The weekend retreat provided many sombre moments — remembering the many individuals they have lost to suicide and violence. But statistics show shocking suicide rates among Aboriginal Australians, and much higher suicide rates among the LGBTI population compared to the broader population.

And you only have to talk to a handful of this group of people to realise that it is a painful reality. Gatherings like this one, arranged by the Victorian Government, are key to keeping spirits strong — particularly among those who are isolated in remote communities, Vanessa said. The face-to-face contact has been an invaluable experience for younger people in the community to seek advice and guidance. It has also opened up complex discussions about practising culture as the gender they identify with. Sistergirl Crystal Love practises Aboriginal culture as a woman in her community on the Tiwi Islands.

We are where we are today because for odd years, our people didn't accept us as who we are.


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We still had to play a male role or a female role, but luckily our people have changed and evolved. But we've had to fight for our struggle … I practice as a woman … I dance as a transgender woman. Max had already connected with other transgender Aboriginal people on the more than 1,member brotherboys and sistergirls Facebook group.

Sistergirls and Brotherboys: The Reality of Being Black and Trans in Australia

For the first time, he was in the presence of other people who understood exactly what he is going through. Or then I'll be in Aboriginal communities but I don't have the queer aspect. And being trans, as much as I struggle with it, being a brotherboy is part of my identity. But one of his other major life goals is to start having conversations with elders in his community about practising Aboriginal culture as a man.

So I want to sit down and consult with elders about my transition. Topics: indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander , community-and-society , melbourne , australia. First posted November 21, Contact Margaret Burin. More stories from Victoria. If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC. ABC teams share the story behind the story and insights into the making of digital, TV and radio content. Read about our editorial guiding principles and the standards ABC journalists and content makers follow.

Learn more. By Vanessa Gorman and Susan Chenery. He's painted some of the world's biggest stars, married Australian television's darling and has a swanky hotel named after him, but life for Vincent Fantauzzo has never been easy. A series of cold fronts tears across the country, leaving ashes in its wake as NSW braces for a catastrophic fire rating on Tuesday.