Statement on the passing of Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Agnes Shea OAM

On behalf of Reconciliation Australia, I wish to express my sincere condolences to Aunty Agnes’ family and her Ngunnawal People.

Aunty Agnes Shea was a highly respected Senior Elder and a leader of the movement for justice and reconciliation. Her loss will be felt deeply within the Canberra community, and more broadly across Australia.

Aunty Agnes has been a great supporter of the work of Reconciliation Australia and holds a special place in our story. She always spoke so strongly about the importance of language revitalisation and education of younger generations, something that we will continue to uphold and share through our work.

We remain eternally grateful for her support and permission as a founding member of the United Ngunnawal Elder’s Council, to use a Ngunnawal word as the title of our national education program. In an act of great generosity, she and the Council gave Reconciliation Australia permission to use the word narragunnawali, meaning alive, wellbeing, coming together and peace, in her Ngunnawal language.  

Her warmth, generosity of spirit and message of kindness will be remembered by the many people who were privileged to have been Welcomed to Country by her over the years.

Although she has now passed her legacy of passionate advocacy for Ngunnawal people, culture and language will live on. Reconciliation Australia will continue to support the United Ngunnawal Elders Council calls for truth telling and the use of Ngunnawal names on local ACT landmarks.

Our thoughts are with her family, the Ngunnawal People, and her friends in the wider ACT community at this difficult time.

Karen Mundine, CEO Reconciliation Australia

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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