Congratulations Professor Tom Calma AO

On behalf of Reconciliation Australia’s directors, staff, partners and supporters I warmly welcome the announcement that Professor Tom Calma AO has been awarded Senior Australian of the Year.

Statement by Karen Mundine, CEO of Reconciliation Australia.

I congratulate Professor Calma on his award and agree that he is eminently deserving of this honour.

Tom has been a highly effective co-chair of Reconciliation Australian for more than a decade, leading through good times and tough times with great humility, humour and grace.

However, his leadership of this organisation is only a small part of his enormous contribution to Australian public life over many decades.

An Elder of the Kungarakan People of the Northern Territory, he had humble beginnings and experienced first-hand the racism, dispossession and poverty endured by so many First Nations people.

It is a credit to his intellect, drive, and determination that he has overcome these obstacles and lived a life of enormous achievements, not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people but for all Australians.

These achievements include being a key catalyst in the establishment of the Close the Gap Campaign and of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and leading the Tackling Indigenous Smoking campaign since its inception.

More recently he was co-leader, with Professor Marcia Langton, of the Indigenous Voice Co-design Process and co-authored the final report of that process which has become, in many ways, the blueprint for the Voice to Parliament.

He was the second Aboriginal person to become chancellor of an Australian University when he was appointed to that position by the University of Canberra in 2014.

Last year he became the first Aboriginal person to be elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science for his effective championing of the health, education and justice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

On a personal level, it has been an immense pleasure to serve as CEO of Reconciliation Australia, under the leadership and guidance of this formidable Aboriginal man.

I have no doubt that Professor Tom Calma will continue to serve his people and all Australians in this latest role.

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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