The announcement of the recent inductees onto the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll was an occasion of great pride, reflection and acknowledgement of tireless advocates for their communities.
It was also an occasion for families to come together to celebrate this important achievement.
This year there were again a number of inductees with links to the Greater Shepparton area.
June Murray, known fondly as Aunty June, was one such recipient.
A Wiradjuri elder who has spent much of her life in Shepparton, Aunty June grew up on the Erambie Mission near Cowra in NSW.
Deprived of the opportunity to attend a secondary school because of the government policy that prohibited children from leaving the mission to further their education, Aunty June was sent to work as a domestic servant in Cowra after she finished Year 6.
As a result, because of her belief that education is the key to getting on in life, Aunty June has always highly valued education and actively encouraged young people to stay at school.
As she moved from Griffith to Shepparton, Melbourne, Morwell, then back to Shepparton, Aunty June’s involvement in a range of areas increased.
She supported young people in her work at the Gladys Nicholls Hostel in Northcote, the Lionel Rose Hostel in Morwell and the Bert Williams Hostel in Thornbury.
An underlying theme of her work was to encourage young people to keep trying and make the most of their opportunities.
‘‘When you fall down, you dust yourself off and start again,’’ she says.
As chairwoman of the Rumbalara Women’s Group she helped to provide funds to erect a children’s playground at the Rumbalara Football and Netball Club’s sports ground, an area that was named the Aunty June Playground.
Aunty June’s accumulated wisdom was acknowledged when she was appointed to the Older Australians Advisory Committee and the National Elders Committee by the federal health minister, providing an important voice that highlighted the needs of elderly Aboriginal people as they entered aged care services.
Aunty June spoke about the strong role models in her life, carrying on this tradition herself as she has become a role model for the younger ones in her family and community.
‘‘It’s now up to the younger ones to carry on.’’
And with a gentle reminder she added: ‘‘Don’t let the old people down.’’
Aunty June is still surprised and delighted to join the inductees to the honour roll: Muriel Bamblett AM, (Yorta Yorta/Dja Dja Wurrung); Carolyn Briggs, (Boon Wurrung); Vicki Clark, (Mutthi Mutthi/Wemba Wamba); Joyce Johnson, (Kerrup Jmara clan of the Gunditjamara people); Aunty Di Kerr, (Wurundjeri), Eddie Kookaburra Kneebone, (Bangerang); Elizabeth Maud Morgan-Hoffman, (Yorta Yorta) and Brien Nelson, (Jaara).
I urge you to check out the Victorian Honour Roll website and read the stories of these individuals who have contributed so much to their communities and to Victoria as a whole.
Take note of, and Google, their Country. Take another step to a greater understanding of the Aboriginal history of our land.