Because of her, we can – Djapirri Mununggirritj

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.

[Reconciliation is]… people taking the time to share knowledge and really connect.

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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