The Passing of Rev Dr D Gondarra OAM

It is with great sadness that Reconciliation Australia sends our condolences to the family and friends of Rev Dr D. Gondarra OAM.

Respected lawman of the Dhurili clan of north-east Arnhem Land and a key Aboriginal leader over decades, Dr Gondarra was a highly effective advocate for his Yolŋu culture and language.

He worked relentlessly for the recognition of his peoples’ sacred Yolŋu Rom (law), establishing the Mawul Rom project, to educate and build a dialogue with non-Indigenous people.

A man dynamic in both his Yolŋu society and mainstream Australia, Dr Gondarra was also the co-founder of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress and the first Aboriginal Moderator of the Uniting Church in northern Australia.

He was a leading figure in the development of an Aboriginal Christian theology and was the first Indigenous person to sit on the World Council of Churches.

Dr Gondarra was a dedicated supporter of the reconciliation movement, serving as a member of The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Reconciliation Australia’s predecessor.

But his great love was for his Yolŋu people and culture, and he served his people as the first Yolŋu chairman of the Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA) – a position he held for thirty years.

His skills in governance and business were demonstrated by the massive growth of ALPA during his leadership. From a small organisation ALPA expanded to operate more than 25 stores and deliver major community service programs and enterprise businesses throughout Arnhem Land.

Dr Gondarra was a giant in the fight for First Nations justice and his legacy will continue to support and encourage Australians to work together to build a better, more just and reconciled country.

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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