Ms Djapirri Mununggirritj is a Yolngu Elder from Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land. For decades, she has worked tirelessly to support her community and to foster strong relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.
One of her key achievements was establishing the Yirrkala Women’s Patrol, which saw Aboriginal elders walk the streets late at night to successfully deal with domestic violence, alcohol and other community safety issues.
She is an accomplished artist who is committed to the protection and promotion of Yolngu art, and spent five years managing Nambara Arts and Crafts.
More recently, Ms Mununggirritj has served as an Indigenous Engagement Officer with the Australian Government, helping to ensure her community’s voice is elevated into policy discussions about decisions that affect them.
Locally, she has worked to promote positive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women by organising women’s nights where Yolngu and Balance (white) women can meet and share culture.
On the national stage, she is considered a political trailblazer and helps guide Australia’s reconciliation journey through her work as a board member of Reconciliation Australia.
What got you involved in reconciliation?
I’ve been involved with Reconciliation Australia for nine years. But, I’ve been challenging myself to reach out and try to build a bridge between Yolngu people and non-Indigenous people for many years. I’m inspired by the change I see in people when we connect. In my experience, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and share my knowledge with all types of people and explore what is happening outside my community.
What does a reconciled Australia look like to you?
I believe people thinking about things not only from their own point of view, but also from the Yolngu or Indigenous point of view is what will make a reconciled Australia. It’s people taking the time to share knowledge and really connect.
What do you see as the biggest challenges to national reconciliation?
Listening. People are not listening to our voices. I spoke at a conference in October 2017 and I could see and feel the reaction of the audience to my presence on stage. They did not expect to see a traditional Yolngu woman on the stage speaking with them for 20 minutes. I think they were very happy to have that experience, and I enjoyed being listened to.