NAIDOC Week will be held nationally from 8-15 July. This year’s theme, Because of her, we can!, will celebrate the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made – and continue to make – to community, family, history and the nation.
One such person is esteemed Elder of both Kaurna and Narungga descent, Aunty Yvonne Agius (pictured left). In 2000, Aunty Yvonne was named National NAIDOC Aboriginal Elder of the Year, in recognition of her commitment to the preservation of Aboriginal heritage.
Although Aunty Yvonne has retired from her extensive career in the public sector, she continues to offer her time to a range of community groups and committees, including Dual Chairperson of the City of Adelaide’s Reconciliation Committee.
Aunty Yvonne is committed to telling the courageous stories of the many women who fought long and hard for Aboriginal rights.
“They were our heroes, our pioneers for what we have today – better access to education, housing, health care, legal rights, childcare. These women attended meetings and rallies to fight for our human rights.
“Because of them, we now have more Aboriginal women in high profile positions in government, as advisers to ministers and CEOs, sitting on boards – women who are leading the way to make life better for Aboriginal women and our community in general,” said Aunty Yvonne.
Aunty Yvonne reflects on her greatest role model, her mother, Laura Agius.
“My mother was an inspiration in the way she lobbied the government at the time – Don Dunstan’s government – for a hostel for Aboriginal people who came to the city for medical treatment,” she said.
“She taught me to care and gave me the wisdom and inspiration to help other people.”
Aunty Yvonne has had a long and varied working life, working with Aboriginal rights activist Charles Perkins AO in medical and legal services in Redfern and joining Perkins again at ATSIC where Aunty Yvonne headed up the women’s unit. She also worked in Parliament, looking after visiting dignitaries from overseas.
Aunty Yvonne talks fondly of her five years on the City of Adelaide’s Reconciliation Committee.
“I feel proud to work with the City of Adelaide. Good things are happening, such as the dual Kaurna naming of the city’s Park Lands and squares, and the Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan 18-21.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders have a vital role to play in the lives of the younger generation, whether that be teaching children dreamtime stories, dancing and language, providing advice to youth who find themselves struggling between two cultures, or giving guidance to organisations and government.
The Granny Group, based in Port Adelaide, is made up of female Elders who do just that.
“The Granny Group provides advice to government departments on issues such as culture, health, education, child care, and justice and how we can alleviate some of the problems that arise in our community in these areas,” said Aunty Yvonne.
“We need more of the younger Aboriginal women to get involved in committees, organisations and the community at a grassroots level to carry on our culture, our heritage, and keep fighting to protect our human rights just as our Elders did.”
‘Respect, relationships and opportunities’ are the base of the new City of Adelaide Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) 2018-2021, the eleventh to be adopted since the City of Adelaide first embarked on a journey of reconciliation in 1997.
These plans have initiated important contributions toward reconciliation, such as the Kaurna dual-naming of city squares and annual NAIDOC in the Mall celebrations, to be held this year from 11am on Tuesday 10 July.
To access the latest Stretch RAP 18-21 visit cityofadelaide.com.au/reconciliation