Deadly night for Debutantes!

Not so often you hear about Debutante Balls, but this year it’s been revived. The idea sprouted from my mother Louise Brown, who was keen to have the tradition back for the young Indigenous girls of Queanbeyan, after my own Debutante Ball back in 1999.

The Ball is aimed at supporting young women to understand the transition to womanhood, to build self-esteem and prepare them to take their place as leaders in the community. Before mum could make this night happen, she required funding. She approached our local ICC (Indigenous Coordination Centre) and was granted successfully.

Nine young women and their partners began dance practice two months ago, Irene Ryan and Robyn Vest volunteered their time to teach them, some of the dances included were the Pride of Erin and Gypsy Tap.

September 15 came around quick, and it was the girl’s time to shine. The night began with a Welcome to Country from my brother, Adrian Brown. Our beautiful Debutantes were presented to Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall and Indigenous sportswoman Katrina Fanning.

It was definitely an emotional night for me seeing my two nieces making their Debut, and my daughter as the flower girl. Mum is looking forward to organising the next ball, which might include our elders, who never had the opportunity to make their Debut.

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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