Because of her, we can – Karen Mundine

Karen Mundine has been involved in reconciliation for several decades, culminating in her appointment as CEO of Reconciliation Australia in 2017.

Ms Mundine is from the Bundjalung Nation of northern NSW. She was formerly the Deputy CEO of Reconciliation Australia and has more than 20 years’ experience in community engagement, public advocacy, communications and social marketing campaigns.

She has held senior public affairs and communications roles with federal government departments including Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Over the course of her career Karen has been instrumental in some of Australia’s watershed national events, including the Apology to the Stolen Generations, Centenary of Federation commemorations, Corroboree 2000 and the 1997 Australian Reconciliation Convention.

What or who got you involved in reconciliation?

I was raised in a family where we were always taught to be the best that we could regardless of what that was. But also with an understanding that we had opportunities that other people didn’t. And part of the deal of being given these opportunities is you have a duty to give back. I want to make this country a better place for myself, my friends, my family, my nephews and nieces.

What does a reconciled Australia look like to you?

Reconciliation isn’t a single moment or place in time. It’s lots of small steps, some big strides, and sometimes unfortunate backwards steps.  A reconciled Australia is practicing respect, understanding and empathy for the first peoples of this nation, in our everyday lives—in schools, workplaces, sporting clubs and community spaces, but also in our laws, policies and systems of government.

What do you see as the biggest challenges to national reconciliation?

An ongoing challenge for us is not being too disheartened by the setbacks. I think we have a strong network and amazing community of people who are all about change and who want to see change, but it’s not everyone. We still have to work to convince others. And that will sometimes create hurdles for us… but I guess the challenge for the moment is not to be disheartened by that. It’s too easy to give up and walk away. People have been fighting for social justice and civil rights for hundreds of years. If our ancestors could stick it out, then so can we.

Reconciliation isn’t a single moment or place in time. It’s lots of small steps, some big strides, and sometimes unfortunate backwards steps.

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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