Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

NAIDOC Ball Presentation of Awards to Male and Female Elders of the Year

Location: NAIDOC Ball, Brisbane

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I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners, and their Ancestors, on whose lands this beautiful city of Brisbane sits, and on whose Ancestral lands we come together for this ceremony, the 2009 NAIDOC Ball.

I would like to acknowledge the Elders here tonight and to thank you for the rich legacy you hand on to the younger generation.

I would like to add my very special congratulations to Lowitja O’Donoghue for your Lifetime Achievement Award.

The citation for your award describes you as one of the great and sustaining forces for the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

I know your own people are proud of you and celebrate in your success but so too do all Australians.

We are all honoured by your achievements and benefit from the wisdom and knowledge you have gained throughout your life, and now pass on to those who follow you.

Lowitja, you have received many of our country’s highest awards for your service, placing you amongst the great Australians.

My wish for you tonight, and always, is that you will take the time to notice and celebrate just how much you matter to us all.

Someone has said to me that the Ancestors will be beaming with delight at your recognition.

Tonight you follow your long-time friend – Uncle Chicka Dixon who won a Life Time Achievement Award last year.

Uncle Chicka is sadly now very ill. A legacy of asbestos while working on the Sydney docks.

When I spoke to him recently he said he has been to hospital over 30 times and he’s got a fighting spirit.

Uncle Chicka devoted his life to the fight for justice and human rights for Indigenous Australians.

He was there with Charles Perkins on the Freedom Rides in 1965, and with Faith Bandler campaigning for a YES vote in the 1967 referendum.

He is an achiever. In so many ways and so many places.

Whether it be International recognition of Indigenous Art.

Advances in alcohol rehabilitation.

Setting up Redfern Legal and Medical Centres.

Chicka played a major role in each.

He told me the other day that it was all about HHEE. Health Housing Education and Employment.

I would like him to know that we are all thinking of him this evening. Chicka, you are an enduring inspiration to us all.

Elders awards

Which brings me to our next awards for this evening, for our Elders.

This year, the Awards to our Elders are particularly pertinent, given NAIDOC 2009’s theme, Honouring Our Elders, Nurturing Our Youth.

Indigenous Elders hold a very special place in community and national life.

They are sources of wisdom, authority and knowledge.

They keep the spirit, law, language, stories and history of Indigenous Australia alive by communicating and teaching these important lessons to young people.

They provide direction and show the way. They provide order and structure to society.

They are mentors, nurturers and carers.

Our Female and Male Elders of the Year for 2009 have demonstrated these qualities in abundance and I have great pleasure in presenting their awards to them.

And now to our awards…

This year, noting our theme, we have two winners in each elders’ category.

The first winner of female elder of the year is Doris Eaton from Perth.

Congratulations, Doris.

And the second winner is Elsie Heiss from Sydney.

Congratulations, Elsie.

And now to our male elders.

The first winner is Frank Lampard from Adelaide.

Congratulations, Frank.

And the second winner is from here in Brisbane. Congratulations, Reginald Roy Knox – or Uncle Reg as he is known locally.

Please join me in paying tribute to our worthy winners of the elders’ awards.