Constitutional Recognition Report presented in USA

This week I travelled to the USA where I presented the Expert Panel’s report Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution to UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr James Anaya.

James was the guest speaker at a conference dinner in Arizona which brought together Indigenous peoples from Canada, New Zealand, USA and Australia.

The conference was a great chance for everyone to share insights on different pathways to self- determination and the relationship between governance and economic development.

James spoke about his role with the UN and provided different examples of how Indigenous peoples from around the world have been recognised.  I was inspired to hear some of the successful stories of Indigenous communities throughout the world who are taking more control and responsibility for their futures.

Today we visited the Tohono O’Odham Nation in Arizona and met with the Chair of the Legislative Council and Chairperson of the Tribal Council. We learnt about their governance structure and their economic enterprises which will no doubt come in handy for this year’s Indigenous Governance Awards program.

I also had a chance to visit the Tohono O’odham Cultural Centre and Museum.  When I came to this Nation in  2006 the Cultural Centre was still under construction, so it was exciting to see the Centre completed. It provides a valued place for the reclamation of their artefacts—and is a great educational facility for their culture and language.

Recognition has been a major theme of my trip so far and I’m looking forward to talking more about the Constitutional recognition of Australia’s first peoples upon my return.

By Leah Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer 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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