The nation’s new Senior Australian of the Year has implored the public to better understand Indigenous culture and communities.
Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, an Aboriginal elder from the Northern Territory, was awarded the gong at a ceremony in Canberrra on Monday.
She reflected on Australia’s colonial history and the modern multicultural community.
“We learnt to speak your English fluently, walked on a one-way street to learn the white people’s way,” Dr Ungunmerr-Baumann said.
“Now is the time for you to come closer to understand us and to understand how we live and listen to what needs are in our communities.
“I hope you will meet us halfway to understand our issues and help us make it better for our communities and for our young people.”
Indigenous affairs has been a contentious issue for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose government has watered down the Indigenous voice to parliament proposed through the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The 73-year-old activist, educator and artist became the NT’s first qualified Aboriginal teacher in 1975.
She later became a principal and a consultant for the Department of Education, where she called for visual art to be part of education for all children.
Dr Ungunmerr-Baumann is on the National Indigenous Council which advises the federal government, and has also established a foundation to help bridge the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal society.
Her foundation is built on the values of Dadirri, Aboriginal spirituality.