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National Reconciliation Week

National Reconciliation Week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

The Melbourne Town Hall is lit in red. On its portico, two banners are displayed, both with Aboriginal artwork and the City of Melbourne logo. The one on the left reads "Aboriginal Melbourne", and the one on the right reads "National Reconciliation Week 27 May - 3 June". The right portico also has the Aboriginal Melbourne logo.

Running from 27 May to 3 June, it recognises two significant dates in Australia s history: 

  • 27 May 1967: Australians voted to remove clauses in the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • 3 June 1992: The Mabo decision was made in the High Court of Australia, recognising Native Titles and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having rights to the land. The decision further recognised that, in some cases, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples Native Title had survived British colonisation. 

The 2024 theme was Now More Than Ever. This theme reminds us all that we must continue the fight for justice and for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In 2024, National Reconciliation Week once again included our keynote Oration, as well as an author event at narrm ngarrgu Library and Family Services and a free Mabo Day concert at Meat Market in North Melbourne.

For details about other events in your neighbourhood, visit Reconciliation AustraliaOpens in new tab.

Important note for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Please be advised that the photos and videos shown on our webpages may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

National Reconciliation Week 2024 


Keynote speakers for the 2024 Oration will be Ngarra Murray and Rueben Berg, the co-chairs for the First Peoples’ Assembly of VictoriaOpens in new tab. These two passionate leaders have been chosen by their communities to represent their hopes, needs and ideas on the journey to Treaty.  

Watch the Oration livestream ​recording​Opens in new tab.

Ngarra Murray ​

Ngarra Murray is a Wamba Wamba, Yorta​ Yorta, Dhudhuroa and Dja Dja Wurrung woman based in Melbourne. She is passionate about community mobilisation, nation building, and treaties. Ngarra is serving her second term on the Assembly and her first term as a co-chair. ​

Rueben Berg​

Rueben Berg is a Gunditjmara man based in Melbourne. His vision for the Indigenous community in Victoria is that all Indigenous Victorians are fit, healthy and living meaningful lives, and have the tools to continue to be the longest continuing culture in the world. Rueben is serving his second term on the Assembly and his first term as a co-chair.

Deadly books for right now

Authors Claire G Coleman (Noongar) and Declan Fry (Yorta Yorta) visited narrm ngarrgu Library and Family Services for Deadly books for right now, leading discussions and reading from treasured books to help readers navigate the turbulent world of today.

Mabo Day Concert

This free community concert held at Meat Market in North Melbourne was headlined by rap, hip-hop, spoken word and pop artist, Mau Power, with Mui Mui Bumer Gedlam, John Wayne Parsons and Candice Lorrae of The Merindas also performing. 

Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM QC – writer, activist and lawyer on the ground-breaking Mabo case – spoke about about Native Title. 

Previous National Reconciliation Week Orations

2023 Oration – Antoinette Braybrook

Antoinette is a Kuku Yalanji woman born on Wurundjeri Country and the 2022 Melburnian of the Year. Antoinette gives a voice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have experienced family violence.

This oration took place on Monday 29 May 2023. View the livestream of the event below and read our Melbourne News article to learn more about Antoinette.

Useful resources

Reading list for National Reconciliation WeekOpens in new tab

Expand your understanding of Aboriginal history, culture and achievement with this reading list for National Reconciliation Week featuring books by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, new literature and thought-provoking topics.

[Song in Aboriginal language]

My name is Jason Eades and I'm the director of Aboriginal Melbourne here at the City of Melbourne. Before we commence I'm just going to do a couple of housekeeping matters - the bathrooms if you're looking for them are located on my left to your right over through those glass doors. In the unlikely events that there is an emergency please follow the instructions of town hall staff. Can we please make sure our mobile phones are either switched off or on silent that would be great. 

So thank you all for joining us here at Melbourne Town Hall for this special oration event with our keynote speaker Antoinette Braybrook a special welcome to all of her guests from Jira and to thank you to everyone who is tuning in online and of course here in the in the room. I would like to acknowledge that today we are gathered on the lands of the Wurundjeri  people of the eastern Kulin and I pay my respects to their Elders past and present. I also want to acknowledge all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the room with us today and of course the Aboriginal people joining us via the live stream. But can I please um ask you to make welcome Uncle Tony Garvey who will be welcoming us to Wurundjeri country please make him welcome.

Jesus I was expecting a little bit more of that can we have one more. [Applause]

[Uncle Tony Garvey] Better look at me clock. Good afternoon everyone I didn't want to say good morning. Just in case.  I'd like to start off with saying Womenjika to everyone.  So Womenjika  in the Wurundjeri, Woi Wurrung language means welcome. So welcome to indigenous and non-indigenous people here today. 

Just want to say I'm very proud and honoured to be standing here tall for my people the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people from Corranderk out at Healesville. My great-grandfather was the last narangeeta. His name was Robert Wandoon. He took over from our fearless leader King Barrack who was our fearless leader that took on the government for land rights in the 1980s right up till 1906 when he passed, when it was handed over to my great-grandfather his name was Robert Wandoon. He led our mob to 1926 when the mission was closed due to colonisation and being forced out into white Society. The  Wurundjeri people though also a part of the Kulin Nation, so Kulin means man . In the Kulin Nation we had five language groups.  We had Wurunroung the West, the Kurong who were the Westerly neighbours to the Wurunroung, Tunurong to the north east and  Bunurong to the southwest and the Woiwurrung of the Wurundjeri territory that we stand on here today.  The Wurundjeri lies from the inner cities of Melbourne extend from the mountains of the Great Dividing Range south of the Yarra River to the Mordiallic Creek, West to the Werribee river and east of Mount Bawbaw, The Wurundjeri  peoples they have a social totem at his Bunjil the eagle. Bunjil  represents spiritual Powers throughout many parts of Australia Bunjil taught all the laws about life behavior and ceremonies to make sure that our culture would continue for all walks of life throughout Australia. So Bunjil was referred to as the creator of mankind.

Bunjil created great people from the land and that is why we call the land our mother, or the mother of creation. Never can the lamb be taken away. The land will always belong to Aboriginal people as we are part of the land and the land is part of us. Our story is similar to the European people theirs is by their chosen Faith, ours is by The Dream time We both have creators and beliefs and ours is Bunjil.

It is a traditional custom of the Australian Aboriginal communities to be asked and to give permission for people to enter their lands and today you have now joined with me to honour the spirits of my ancestors past present and merging who have nurtured this land for over sixty thousand years and we as the owners of the lands offer hearty welcome to the lands and hoped that to give citizens of this beautiful country we can build develop and unite strong donations for all peoples.

I'll close with the Woiwurrung language which Wominjeka yearmann koondee biik Wurundjeri balluk - which is  you're most welcome to the land of the Wurundjeri people. Before we jump down and we get that loud clap again maybe a little bit louder this time, I just want to touch on a couple things.

Obviously we've got the most important stuff coming up now we've got reconciliation work so now's our opportunity to really get our culture out there, express it get your hearts in place get together reunite come together as one.
You're going to be the biggest threat to the government if you unite as one let's stop worrying about who comes from where and what comes and what we are black fellas, we're black all right across Australia let's work this together and work it in together we'll get a voice empowerment that's going to give us a bit of power a bit of say over what happens to our people which should have happened a long time ago. 

We've got the treaty process too you know the treaty process we're going to get these things right we really have to nail these right and look we've got a little bit of time to get it right too so I'm just a little bit frustrated does frustrate me it sticks in my guts every day of the week is while we're asking the European people in Australia for a treaty I don't get it and I don't get it for a face empowerment neighbour our place should have been the first place in Parliament not the last I'd just like to thank you very much for having me here today and as I said unite United you stand divided we fall okay so let's get them behind each other and work this together thank you very much.

Thank you. [Applause]

[Jason Eades] So as you all know this week is National Reconciliation Week it's a time for all of us to learn more about our shared histories cultures and achievements and explore how we can achieve reconciliation in Australia. Saturday was the official start of reconciliation week and marks the anniversary of the 1967 referendum 56 years ago and remains the most successful referendum in Australia's history this year's theme be a voice for Generations.

It prompts us to consider how can we be the voices for tangible change in our everyday lives what meaningful actions can we take now to make a future a fairer more reconciled and for the benefit of all generations since colonisation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have advocated tirelessly for for a fairer country that recognises and respects our Rich cultures identities and histories we have outcome so excuse me we have overcome so much but we still have a lot to go but the path to a truly reconciled future is one that all Australians must embrace and embark on together and one that begins with truth-telling that is what makes me so excited about events like today seeing so many of you here from all careers cultures ages and so many of you sorry walks of life coming together to hear from powerful voices like Antoinette's - an engage in meaningful discussions about reconciliation truly gives me hope for what our future looks like.

Believe it or not I lead an amazing team here at the City of Melbourne. The Aboriginal Melbourne team whose work on projects such as the Aboriginal Melbourne Aboriginal mapping project the Stolen Generations marker and an other exciting activities including those that are scheduled for reconciliation week keep an eye out for some of our events this week including the Marbo Day concert but today of course we're here for the oration and it exemplifies our commitment to truth-telling and Reconciliation to learn more about our commitments please join me in welcoming our Lord Mayor Sally Capp to the stage.


[Sally Capp] Hello everybody.  It really is wonderful to see this room so packed today for this oration and to kick off our activities for National Reconciliation Week. Thank you Jason to you and your team for really driving this event and so many others.
I'm honoured to be up here today as the Lord mayor of Melbourne I'm joined by councillor Dr Olivia Call and councillor Jamal Hakim our acting CEO Alison Leighton, Jason Eades who leads Aboriginal Melbourne and so many of our City of Melbourne team here today thank you and so many guests who wanted to join us for this very important oration I don't want to say too many big words like that because I know Antoinette's already feeling the pressure of being orator this year but we really are very excited to be here to join and support you for this important event but thank you everybody for coming and joining us today.

Of course we are here on the lands of the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung. I pay respects to Elders past and present also to the butter on Bunurong people who on whose land we also govern at the city of Melbourne and govern with as an important theme with our traditional owners thank you so much to Uncle Tony Garvey I know there are many Elders in the room today on behalf of the city of Melbourne we pay our respects to you and thank you for your care of the land and the waterways to acknowledge and honor the Unbroken spiritual political and cultural connection that you've had with this land for more than 2 000 generations and to have your welcome here today Uncle Tony on behalf of the Woiwurung is is always appreciated and the fact that you add in always some very proactive messages about what we can all be doing to make a difference is also a strong sign of your leadership. [clapping]

Look it is important in Reconciliation Week that we are really listening and paying attention to the words that we're saying because so often uh as a non-aboriginal person I'm doing an acknowledgment of country and I'm saying thank you but to really take the time this week to ensure that those words resonate that we use those words as action points to stimulate changes in our behavior changes in our community is vital and all of us have a role to play in that regard so that we are doing better with our traditional owners leading the way and feel fortunate to be on this place with such a resonating and continuing ancient culture that is deserving of respect.

So thank you very much everyone for being here and for reflecting on those words of course this year it is be a voice for generations the amplification of what we talk about this week what we honour and what we uncover in truth-telling is part of a very important National discussion this year as the Voice is considered. I know that all of us are playing a role in progressing whether it's around kitchen tables and important discussions with family through to what we're doing on the various platforms we have in our roles whether it's professionally or in other community roles we all have that role to progress these important discussions and we acknowledge that we still have a long way to go but there's a really important marker coming up this year where we can as Uncle Tony said all unite I know that even now in the early stages of debates and discussions there are conflicting views on what should happen whether it's at the big strategic discussion or it's into the detail of how it's going to be implemented these are important discussions and I encourage everyone to continue them but in our case here at the city of Melbourne.

I did want to state where we stand on these important issues we believe we are a city that is strengthened by the enduring Aboriginal identity contribution and Leadership to this city that we need to work harder to reflect those Aboriginal voices and leaders and history and culture in our city and that's why earlier this year we considered the Uluru statement from the heart and the voice at a council meeting we made some very important decisions unanimously firstly that we support wholeheartedly the Uluru Statement from the Heart.  Secondly that we would undertake a communication information and education campaign so that more of our citizens can be involved in meaningful debate and discussion as we head into the referendum and thirdly that resoundingly we support the yes campaign for The Voice debate or voice referendum later this year.

There are three very important decisions made earlier at the city of Melbourne this then builds on the work that we have underway under our reconciliation action plan and I'm really pleased that we can continue to highlight many of the things that we're doing at Town Hall including a stolen Generations marker in our municipality. And we'll have more to say on that later this year but I recognise that particularly since National Sorry day was just on Friday.

Today in terms of amplifying voices. We are absolutely delighted firstly that this oration goes from strength to strength every year and we've gone from a small group of people coming together to this packed room today and as I said we're absolutely delighted that you're here but I know that that really reflects uh the standing and the significance of our orator this year who is our Melbournian of the Year as well Antoinette Braybrook.[clapping]

Annette is a proud Kuku Yalanji woman who is doing outstanding work as the CEO of Djirra an organization that Advocates and supports Aboriginal women and people experiencing domestic violence she is the first Aboriginal person to be awarded Melbournian of the year and I know that she has many firsts on her resume as somebody who's been a strident Champion pushing through many barriers to create the platform of voices for those that would not otherwise be heard and Antoinette we applaud the work that you and your Djirra team do each and every day to make a difference in people's lives and literally saving lives so thank you very much for that incredible work that you do. 

We know that that you'll have some insightful things to say today and I'm actually the warm-up act so I'm going to stop speaking after lunch we're looking forward to hearing from you and please know that you're amongst many friends and supporters and and we're here to listen actively today um we are at the city of Melbourne pleased to have a number of events during uh reconciliation week this of course today is leading the way and it is being recorded So we encourage you to again amplify Antoinette's voice across our networks uh by sharing the recording of this event we at the city library on Thursday will be having deadly book Yarns I must love that deadly book yarns with storytelling and truth-telling and all starting there in our city library on Thursday which will be fantastic and of course Federation Square on Saturday the Mabo Day concert It's a wonderful. I'm thinking the restaurant Mabo Day concert recognising of course that incredible decision at the high court which really changed the paradigm here in Australia and rightly so and we're really pleased to be supporting that concert in Federation Square so get on down I'm going to leave it there yeah I hope you feel inspired and invigorated at the end of the aeration today and that all of us be part of a voice for Generations in creating change here in Australia thank you very much.

[Jason Eades] Thank you Lord Mayor for your inspiring words before we have our lunch and hear from Annie afterwards as I do a bit of a promo on your tables you'll find a flyer on Djirra a fantastic organization and I know Annie will speak to more about this but I encourage you to check it out and if you're so inclined there's some details there to give to a very worthy cause so please have a look also as you answered for the non- city of Melbourne people you would have been given a ticket for the draw do not select all of those tickets we have some fabulous giveaways that we will give out after we've heard from Antoinette.

[Jason Eades] 
Hello everybody we can take your seats again please.

Can I also thank those that are tuning in online for your patience as we get things under our way again I hope you are or did enjoy that meal I would now like to introduce our special guests and the keynote speaker Antoinette Braybrook Antoinette is Kuku Yalanji  woman who was born here in Victoria on Wurundjeri country.

She's highly regarded advocate and public speaker who seeks to give a voice to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are who have experienced Family Violence. Antoinette is the founding CEO of Djirra an Aboriginal Community controlled organization that delivers holistic culturally safe and specialist family violence support across Victoria Djirra provides legal support case management and well-being services and programs to those experiencing Family Violence this work is on the front line and informs their advocacy for system-wide changes that improve the access to the to justice system eliminates systemic violence and strengthen women's resilience Antoinette also serves as co-chair of the change the record campaign Australia's only National First Nations led Justice Coalition of Legal Health and Family Violence preventative experts she is a fierce advocate for First Nations women at a national and international level . Holding a number of positions on advisory groups expert panels and in consultation roles for the state and federal organizations, Antoinette has received wide recognition for her incredible work over the years as the Lord mayor mention she made history last year by being the first Aboriginal person to be named Melbournian of the year at the 2022 Melbourne Awards it's an honour and a privilege to have Antoinette here to speak at our special event today please join me in welcoming Antoinette for Australians [Applause]

[Antoinette Braybrook]
I begin by acknowledging that we are gathering on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation and pay my respects to their Elders past and present I acknowledge and thank Uncle Tony Garvey who I think has left for welcoming us here today and allowing a safe passage on your land also for allowing me to speak freely and to provide a personal view on something so significant to our people. I also acknowledge Naarm as a significant Gathering Place for the collective Clans the Kulin nation.
I would like to acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people present and online today especially our elders and my mum and my brother my dad and my other family and friends who are online I acknowledge and thank Alison Leighton acting CEO, Lord Mayor Sally Capp and Jason Eades and the City of Melbourne for inviting me to deliver this year's reconciliation oration their voice for Generations.

I acknowledge Djirra staff current and formal here today and listening online and our supporters and of course the women who continue to put their trust and belief in us. Their lives and children's lives in our hands.

As you have heard my name is Antoinette Braybrook. I was born and have lived all of my life in Wurundjeri country but my family is Kuku Yalanji from Far North Queensland and I have been the CEO of Djirra since its inception just over 20 years ago and I'm also co-chair of change the record with my first Nations sister Cheryl Axelby.

I have always known that my authority to do what I do to initiate agitate and Advocate comes from being an Aboriginal woman with my own experiences and history and from the trust and confidence women place in me CEO titles make sense and open doors in the white world not so much in the Aboriginal world as I'm speaking I ask that you see the women on the screen and see within each woman her own individual and unique story of strength and courage a story which reverberates in and around the shared knowledge and experience of all Aboriginal women a sister a mother an auntie a daughter a grandmother Can You Feel The Hope, can you see the resilience it's almost palpable the women the reason why Djirra is what it is today the very reason why Djirra will continue into the future for generations to come it has been First Nations women who have done the heavy lifting and continue to carry a load our women who have been vocal and fervent not silent about the violence we experience from individuals of many cultures and backgrounds not silent about the systemic violence and racism we experience from government agencies that see our kids taken at alarming rates that see our people achieve an abhorrent heartbreaking record the most incarcerated in the world yet it is our women who are consistently silenced sidelined and rendered invisible by racist and violent systems and structures that oppress marginalize and take our lives so to be clear First Nations women are not and have not been silent we have been silenced disbelieved in our lives not valued which brings me right here right now here I am as an Aboriginal woman standing in front of you delivering the reconciliation oration for the city of Melbourne something I would never have imagined and especially in those darkest times as a 14 year old told by a teacher reinforced by my peers that I would never amount to anything.

I have a voice I Am Not Invisible but are you listening the theme for this reconciliation week is be a voice for Generations today I will share a little about my personal journey and my integral link to Djirra is a specialist Aboriginal Community controlled organization one that prioritizes women and children's safety through culturally safe Frontline services and programs.

In taking this approach I hope to draw out the reason why I have come to the conclusion that you may consider a provocative conclusion that after my early life the teenager and the young adult growing up with more memories of racism than inclusion followed by 20 years of working at the front line of women and children's safety I have an increasingly ambivalent attitude towards the notion of reconciliation maybe we have reached the place of irreconcilable differences the end of the road or maybe we have reached the summit and we can park it in the Readiness for the next important stage in the journey to an historic tangible meaningful change and so the important question for you to consider is where do we go from here it is not lost on me that we are at a turning point and this year 2023 could bring that momentous change partly achieved in 1967 into sharp Focus the realization of self-determination in a practical and symbolic sense for First Nations people in this country I am also extremely conscious of the hatred that is descending on all of us at this critical time for us as First Nations people the extremist views white supremacy lateral violence not just attacking our personal safety but also making platforms unsafe media and social media for me I know that today as an Aboriginal woman speaking my truth I am exposed I am fearful even more than ever before I'm anxious about what might follow but this fear I have learned fuels my determination fortifies me and I continue standing up for what I believe in I will stay true stay the course my determination comes from my family's story our Aboriginal story.

It's meaning for me today and how particular history explains who I am now and what I will pass on to Future Generations in my family

My grandfather Billy Bargo mum's dad an Aboriginal man born in Far North Queensland in the early 1900s he was a performer a whip cracker a horseback jumper my nan a non-aboriginal woman was these beautiful show girl as she liked to call herself doing the Roadshow circuits winning prizes they were famous back in those days Granddad Billy had to get a permit from the Aboriginal protection board to travel between towns and states to earn enough money to support his family my granddad Billy Bargo a strong proud cultural man was held under a Queensland Act of Parliament the Aborigines protection and sale of opium Act do you hear in this title the paternalism the coercive control the racist degradation of an adult man's integrity freedom and First Nations Authority and presence around 1951 Billy Bargo and his beautiful show girl my nan set off to atiaroa to do the rodeo circuit my mum was five years old and she stayed with family this would be the last time my mum saw her dad.

Men came back for what was to be a short visit to see the kids but she never made it back to Arturoa when Nam came back the white authorities had caught up with my granddad Billy Bargo they wanted Nan to coax him the black man back into Australia so they could throw the book at him Nan refused to do this my grandfather was being hunted by the authorities simply because he did not get permits to travel around his own country he never returned home mum searched for him when she was old enough Maori Community knew him they called him the rainmaker but they didn't know where he'd gone we found out he died in 1962. he only lived for another 12 years I wonder if it was his broken heart knowing he would never again see his kids feel the healing from his own land the mother spirit maybe he felt it was better for him to be there away from here because he couldn't just couldn't take the humiliation and indignity of begging for one more permit from the white man the only way he could move across his own land but always under surveillance Granddad Billy Bargo didn't live long enough to know that a referendum happened and succeeded in 1967. 

If he lived just a few more years longer he may have made it back home to be with his family. White Australia policies, while some were finally removed from legislation by the 1970s still remain in sentiment in action. We know that insidious racist intent lives on and thrives in contemporary laws regulations and practices Child Protection prisons bail to name a few inevitably impacting on our lives the lived experience of social exclusion. For my family like many others started early in life and it never stops. My mum at the time of the 67 referendum two kids me and my brother we were all stateless and without legal rights on a land which our ancestors had walked since the beginning of time our little brother Ryan born in the early 70s mum as a young Aboriginal woman lived in fear of the constant intimidation from the white authorities that they would act on their threats and take us kids from the moment she gave birth in the hospital. Mum dreaded any time when we were out of her sight or in the view of the white systems sending us to school taking us to the doctors  - nowhere was safe except for home behind a locked door and my mum succeeded in keeping us safe my story is not just a story of the past face policies and injustices continue to materialise in different ways but with the same intention today to oppress marginalise demonise but despite this Aboriginal people remain resilient strong in culture and determined our fight for justice human rights and a future dignified and self-determined will never cease until it is achieved our daily lives are complex fraught with risks Peril invisible living in a dominant culture harsh and dangerous our personal experiences life cannot be separated from our professional experiences life.

It is one our Aboriginal world follow me here appreciate what we must navigate in order to remain visible and heard the opportunities the challenges that come each day every year and what we devote Our Lives to as First Nations people as we build as we lead organisations as we nurture our families.

There are multifaceted elements of contemporary side society which impact upon us the political environment the systems and the structures of government the sporting world the many public events of civil Society we cycle through the commemorations campaigns inquiries each year some come from the nation's guilt some from Good Intentions some found it on ignorance and some just plain tokenism.

Others come from our demands for change we fight to be counted for safety equality Justice and respect we call for reports and recommendations to be acted on we find we protest we agitate every minute of every day of every year because we want to be heard and because we want change.

Let me take you on a journey through the year and a year and every year we live as First Nations people 26th of January Invasion day others called Australia Day. That's a mindset we strongly oppose we protest calling for the date the symbolism to be abolished because for us it represents loss theft Devastation massacres.

We watch while others throw snags on the barbie and fly the flag red white and blue oozing with pride for a country built on the self-belief of a fair go for all hardly then in February we wait for the government's tabling of its report in federal Parliament only to reveal yet again that it has failed in its responsibility to close the gap our health status poor our life expectancy is still lower our children removed taken at a far greater rate than at any time since White Settlement suicide rates worsen more of our people criminalised and imprisoned. More women and children's lives lost because of family violence too many left unsafe mainstream responses invested in while Aboriginal Solutions are not .Aboriginal women's safety politicised our people labeled violent are communities marked as unsafe along comes march it's International women's day first celebrated by women in Australia in 1928, but for Aboriginal women in that same year and for many years to follow we had no legal rights around land our children no freedom to speak our language to practice culture no right to work to be educated we were not citizens we were slaves trained for the white man and his family still today our fight for equality is bigger than gender it's about our sovereignty it's about our self-determination and we continue to call on our non-aboriginal sisters to stand beside us April we remember and acknowledge the sacrifice our people made defending this country for the first time in 2017 our veterans finally permitted to March together with others on National Anzac Day April the anniversary of the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody we are outraged that the 339 recommendations still 32 years later have not been implemented more of our people continue to die in custody at alarming rates.

540 of our people have died since this Royal Commission when will this stop May we celebrate and reflect on the anniversary of the 1967 referendum we were counted we had rights a week of reconciliation seized businesses not-for-profits corporate entities and other mainstream organisations scramble to remember and then fulfil their promises made in their reconciliation action plans and invite us to speak to their staff

With Reconciliation Week and its focused themes each year, we seize the opportunity to advance our advocacy calls broaden the agenda frame. The Narrative with our words stories and experiences 10 years ago. In 2013 the theme was 'let's talk recognition' and today 10 years on be a Voice for Generations. It is time to move past themes it's time for action. May is a hard month for many but especially for our Stolen Generations we see and feel many of our people reliving the pain we remember the ones who never came home. those still searching we remember the hope we felt we witnessed the emotion The Hope expressed by our elders when Rudd apologised marking the day as National Sorry day but still 26 years later we call for the Bringing Them Home report to be implemented.

Budget week comes and goes and it's the same old story no new money loss of funding maybe a little sweetener just to keep us quiet changing the goal posts transferring funding responsibility re-badging a government Department the national indigenous Australians agency repackaging indigenous advancement strategy and announcing them as new initiatives all intended to destabilize you keep us in our place.

Aboriginal life still not valued our women and children safety still not a priority and our specialist self-determined solutions still not invested.

In July a week we all look forward to Naidoc week and National week to honor and recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we get to slow down and celebrate our culture and our identity our achievements spend time with our families recognize our strengths as individuals as organizations our self-determination many non-aboriginal people join in acknowledge some uncomfortable truths and feel a little relieved because we have welcomed them

August it's National Children's Day this day should be about celebrating our kids thriving in every aspect of their lives being strong in identity and culture but instead for us it's about calling out the systemic racism that sees our kids taken from their mums and Families still our calls to invest in this in supporting mums to escape violence with their kids go unheard ignored Aboriginal women are punished and blamed for the violence they experience and misidentified and criminalised and still the systems responsible invested in today nationally there are 22 000 Aboriginal kids in care in Victoria two thousand six hundred I have only ever seen this these numbers rise our pleas our call on government to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 still not acted upon

As the year rushes towards closure, 16 days of activism kicks off in November. It's a time to amplify our calls to end violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children and call for an end to the systemic racism and violence we endure we welcome the commitment to a standalone plan to end violence against our First Nations women but a commitment is not action where is our dedicated plan one that invests in and prioritises Aboriginal women and children's safety one that invests in our solutions and our self-determination violence against First Nations women is happening at epidemic levels we demand our plan and our solutions invested in.

Finally on the 10th of December it's Human Rights Day but still our rights as First Nation people of this country are violated not protected.

Coronal inquests into deaths in custody murdered women continue to report no evidence of criminal responsibility the murder of an Aboriginal woman under the radar and not worthy of a media report overt racism attracts investigations and reviews but application of the law is a refined

Today we are only halfway through 2023 but we know what to expect next year and the year after that we will do it all again but with another day to add to our calendar the day of the referendum where the people voted what will This Day represent will it be a date to celebrate a day to look back on as a turning point in history a day that told us people voted with their hearts or a day we mourn a day we look back on as another light bulb moment again reminding us that racism thrives the racial divide survives colonization continues

But our fight will continue as it always has and as it must our people's lives adapt our Focus sharpens is refined reflecting on the past and the current political landscape but the only real change the only devastating change will be that next year and the year after that and the year after that it will be a different Aboriginal person a woman a man a child family or Community targeted by individual and systemic racism and violence murdered because of Family Violence because of police brutality classified as a suicide bashed and left the Dead an Aboriginal kid it's life's taken just for walking home from school.

So can you see why I said at the start that I'm not sold on the whole notion of reconciliation if anything to make it all worthwhile I will concede that now in 2023 I believe we have reached the summit our people have endured enough and given more it's over to you now to decide I wonder if reconciliation week will continue next year or will it be reframed as National irreconcilable differences week.

2023, yes we have an opportunity to try something different. Yes this is a new chapter not the final word my grandfather like so many others did not get to live a life where he was counted in 1967. He died before that -Mum found his resting place more than 20 years after he died. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Murray section of Wakame cemetery in Auckland our family traveled over to give him the send-off to the dreaming he so deserved his resting place now marked with a headstone bearing the Aboriginal flag and engraved with the names of people who loved him you know each time we visit it rains but as soon as we reach his resting place the sun shines so bright I guess this is his way of letting us know that he knows we are coming after all he was called The Rainmaker.

I want more than anything for my old people my family my mum to experience a new Direction one filled with real hope real change for her children and for her grandchildren and their children to follow.

I want my nieces and nephew to know that we gave it our all to change the narrative the course to have their say on issues that are so deeply personal to their lives to our lives a voice that can't be taken away at the stroke of a pen When government change and when we no longer fee a political agenda this Turning Point will not create a racial divide as some might say it already exists it's just not spoken about or it's invisible to others because they choose not to see it it is visible and felt by us it is our life.

I respectfully ask you to reflect on everything I've spoken about. The devastating statistics the over and under representation in every social determinant and start taking responsibility and carrying some of this load and finishing up I want to take you back to the start the women I hope that after all I've shared you can now see more than ever their resilience their courage see First Nations women from many different Aboriginal Nations across Victoria who between them have hundreds of children and grandchildren some with great grandchildren women who shine. Women who I don't speak for, but women I look to, women who I surround myself with ,women who speak for themselves, women who must be heard.

As an Aboriginal woman I stand with my many brothers and sisters my family and others who refuse to be complicit in contributing to and perpetuating this deficit narrative. Yes I want change, yes it's time to make a difference, yes it's time to be heard, yes it's time for truth, yes it's time for a more equitable future, yes this is a new chapter not the final word, yes this is about trust and yes it is time for others to take responsibility and carry some of the load and feel privileged in doing so. And finally I would like to leave you with this quote from Maya Angelou for me it sums up nicely the journey I've taken you on for what we as a society are about to embark upon "history despite its renting pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again" Thank you.


[Jason Eades] Sorry everyone we have time for a couple of questions from out of the audience right, um, just, well Antoinette and I know in talking to you leading up to the ask for you to do this event you keep reminding me that it's not about you it's about the the um the way that people Empower you but I I think that we do need to recognise that it takes a special person to grab a hold of that and actually help create the kind of change we want to see in the world so again everybody please [Applause]

A time for a couple of questions if you're up for it um who would like to start us off don't be shy

I'm looking around the room come on Djirra  staff this is your opportunity to ask us something. Yes Lord Mayor.

[Sally Capp] Thank you so much Antoinette many thought-provoking and an important messages and calls to action there. One of the things  that you focused on was how do we share responsibility for progress and advancement. We've been talking about that around the table today I wondered if you could give us some examples of where you've seen that done well in your time as Djirra's CEO that sharing of responsibility.

[Antoinette] I think that for non-aboriginal people you need to check in on yourself at times and don't put that burden on us as Aboriginal people. With respect to this year being such a significant, pivotal year I think that over to you to start carrying the load and speaking to your family your friends about the change needed for our people as I said I think that is just a starting point. It's not everything, it's not the final word, but take some of that responsibility away from us and you start speaking it we're always putting ourselves in the firing line and we need you to do that too.

Any other questions from the floor.

[Audience] Antoinette for non-original people who might feel anxious and think that oh I don't I've never spoken to an Aboriginal person or what if I say the wrong thing and I feel uncomfortable and have you got any advice for us you know what should we do because it's a barrier if people feel it's easier just to look away rather than maybe say the wrong thing or feel embarrassed.

[Antoinette] I just said before don't put that burden on us you need to take responsibility for how you feel.

[Audience] Thanks Antoinette I heard you say what stood out to me is that you express the wish for your mother to be able to see the change, and that really stood out to me because you're saying that you want it to move fast you know what you want. What's one thing that you would want your mother to see before she goes dream time. I really like you said that because that means you want it soon.

[Antoinette] I think that you know when I talked about my grandfather not being able to know about the referendum or say it succeed I think that you know I would like my mum my family to see some change this year through our people all uniting on the things that need to change and there are so many things that I could refer to about you know the number of deaths in custody that continue to rise, the number of children being taken from our families the high rates of violence against our women the high incarceration rates of our women our people I think that there's got to be a circuit breaker for all of those things to change and I want this year to be that circuit breaker.

[Jason Eades] I think that's a tough questions to answer when your mum's sitting in the room looking at you [Laughter] Antoinette we have a small very small token of appreciation a gift we use some flowers Katrina please come up.

Before you disappear on us one day I'm wondering if you would do us the kind duty of drawing three winners of our hampers um now these hampers there is something like 14 Aboriginal businesses represented in each of the hampers it's our small way of being able to make sure um that we're giving back into the Aboriginal business sector as well so I'll hold the bag.

Black D black d 89.

Oh another black one day 74.

Black d 38 .


My sister. Before she goes can we just give her another round of applause [Applause]

So thank you everybody that does conclude our events today but once again I really do want to thank Antoinette for taking the time to speak with us each year this event goes from strength to strength and who knows maybe next year we'll see you up in town hall thanks everybody.





​​2022 Oration – Briggs

Briggs is an Aboriginal rapper, record label owner, comedy writer, actor and author.

Watch the livestream and read our Melbourne News​Opens in new tab article to learn more.

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