2012: The Year of Change

2012 has been a year of ‘change’. I mean this in the sense of a subjective view to which applies ubiquitously to my peers. It has been a year where as a second year university student, I have finally become comfortable in my surroundings and have been able to begin what I call ‘cultural and community fulfilment’.

This is personal goal, to become immersed in the community of my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and be a part of the movements that assist reconciliation and closing that ‘gap’ we all know so well.

It has been such an amazing experience being a part of and knowing of the programs/conferences/workshops that have been accessible to our young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people this year, highlighting on the National Centre of Excellence’s Constitutional Recognition Forum, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Youth Leadership Program, OXFAM’s Change Course, the National Youth Leadership Parliament and many others that I have not made mention of.

Fast forward to August 2012, bridging out of the final weeks of winter and entering the blossoming spring. My knowledge of my people has changed and progressed just as the seasons do; furthering my knowledge of human rights and justice – especially with my mob, being associated with many great organisations facilitating for this change.

I have also been in my new job as the Projects Officer at the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition which has broadened my understanding on the youth sector and young people.

Within the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, I have learnt a lot about respecting the rights of all young people and working towards a fair and equal justice that benefits the lives of all young people. I have been privileged to collaborate in partnership with the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and Reconciliation Australia in developing both the Indigenous Advocacy Roundtable and Yarn About Youth.

The Yarn About Youth survey and report really resonated with me in a way that made me conscious of the evident changes in the progression of reconciliation and the status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia. Overall, Yarn About Youth consisted of positive results and statistics that were balanced by equally alarming (but not surprising), findings. Just to provide a snapshot of the contrasting results:

35% of young people believe that the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and Non-Indigenous Australians is good, with 72% believing that both are prejudiced toward each other – this indicates that there is still a space where non-Indigenous people need to work with Indigenous Australians and vice versa.

It was refreshing however, to see that 90% of young people think that this relationship is important with 81% wanting to be involved in reconciliation. This is evident from the 74% of non-Indigenous Australians indicating that they are proud of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in Australia.

Some people may think these results are poor, though they are a vast improvement from older generations that perceive and understand the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

It is changes like these that make me proud to be a part of the movement toward reconciliation. Each success counts and motivates myself to continue to work harder and be a part of more community groups and organisations.

My vision for the future is to have more of our young people inspired to work toward their dreams, whatever they may be, in an Australia without prejudice and discrimination. I believe that young people need to learn from their elders and should mould themselves to become the next generation of leaders—inspiring the next generation of young people—who will represent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you have inspired someone to do something that they dream to be, do or see. In a whole, the above resonates a personal motto that I follow and encourage others to use, “Aspire to Inspire”.

I am very much looking forward to the New Year in 2013, where I hope to meet more of our young, talented and deadly people from around Australia, continuing on the arduous work that our elders, past and present have dedicated their lives to.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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