Renewed momentum on 30th anniversary of Barunga statement

This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the historic Barunga Statement, which called for a national Treaty recognising Aboriginal prior ownership, continued occupation and sovereignty, and the affirmation of First People’s human rights and freedoms.

The statement was presented to then Prime Minister Bob Hawke at the Barunga Festival on 12 June in 1988.

The importance of treaty has been restated many times in the past three decades, including in the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation’s final report in 2000, and Reconciliation Australia’s State of Reconciliation report.

More recently, the Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017 outlined the importance of sovereignty and called for a Voice to Parliament and a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreement-making and facilitate a process of local and regional truth telling.

Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said the lack of a treaty or treaties between Australian Governments and First Peoples is an unresolved issue that was impeding the country’s progress towards reconciliation.

“Treaty is an important and reasonably held aspiration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel that treaty is essential to reconciliation,” she said.

“Momentum is building. These calls haven’t gone away and in fact are getting stronger. It’s heartening to see progress being made in Victoria, and the Northern Territory in particular,” Ms Mundine said.

The Victorian Parliament last night became the first Parliament in Australia to pass Treaty Legislation through the lower house.

Today will also see a Memorandum of Understanding setting out a process towards Treaty presented to Northern Territory Chief Minister Gunner by the Land Councils.
Ms Mundine noted that calls for Treaty recognise a fundamental truth that this continent was occupied, owned and cared for by First Nation’s Peoples, and was invaded and colonised without consent or Treaty.

Earlier this week saw the end of National Reconciliation Week with the theme ‘Don’t Keep History a Mystery’, which saw widespread engagement, discussion and truth telling as a result.

“Historical acceptance is a foundation to moving forward on large discussions around Treaty and Constitutional Reform, and we’re seeing a real willingness of the Australian public to support such moves,” Ms Mundine said.

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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