Sad ending to overwhelming community support for reconciliation

On the last day of National Reconciliation Week (Mabo Day) we are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Yothu Yindi frontman Dr Yunupingu, who died overnight at his home in Yirrkala, East Arnhem Land following a long battle with kidney disease.

Dr Yunupingu was an inspiration to all Australians; a passionate advocate for reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians, and was named 1992 Australian of the Year for his commitment to reconciliation and work as a musician and educator.

Yothu Yindi were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame last December where they pledged their support for the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. We used the band’s popular song Djapana (Sunset Dreaming) for the first ever simultaneous flash mob dances to launch this year’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW) in Cairns and Melbourne.

While many Australians will today be grieving the loss of a legendary Australian; we can also be proud of the extraordinary number and diversity of events and actions held around the country to support NRW.

We believe this enormous show of support for reconciliation indicates the progress we have made as a nation over the past 20 years.

Even as two high profile incidents of racism seized the attention of media last week, tens of thousands of Australians walked, listened, sang, talked, tweeted and danced in the biggest NRW ever.

More than 500 reconciliation events and activities were officially registered on the Reconciliation Australia website and many more occurred around the country—including flash mobs, bridge walks, concerts, exhibitions, flag raising ceremonies and morning teas — ordinary Australians demonstrating their support for reconciliation through small and humble acts.

Gurrumul Yunupingu, nephew of the late Dr Yunupingu, received a standing ovation after his National Reconciliation Week guest appearance with Delta Goodrem on The Voice and at the Sydney Opera House; and thousands turned out in Melbourne for the start of the Journey to Recognition and for the AFL’s Dreamtime at the G and Indigenous Round matches.

The enthusiasm and goodwill displayed by the tens of thousands who took part is a tribute to the growing public support for reconciliation and for proper recognition of the culture and history of Australia’s First peoples in our founding document.

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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