Wurundjeri Elders Offended by Obama Event Insults

Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation

Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation are concerned by the lack of understanding and respect shown to senior Elder and Traditional Owner Aunty Joy Murphy after she was removed by event organisers from performing the Welcome to Country ceremony at the An Evening with Barack Obama event tonight at Melbourne’s John Cain arena.

Aunty Joy and the Wurundjeri community were thrilled to have been offered the opportunity to Welcome Mr Obama to Country. However, after asking that event organisers Growth Faculty make appropriate accommodations for a support person to accompany Aunty Joy at the event, along with requests to provide Mr Obama with a gift as is cultural practice, she was told that she was being “too difficult” and was removed from the event proceedings.

This is a deep offence to the Wurundjeri people and to all First Nations people. Our Welcome to Country protocols are our traditional law and practice that have been used to welcome and offer protection to our guests on Wurundjeri lands for millennia.

Aunty Joy Murphy has welcomed dignitaries of the highest level to Wurundjeri Country, including the Queen, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama. She has had the honour and the responsibility as the Senior Aboriginal Elder of the Wurundjeri People to welcome people to our country for over 40 years.

“They have always shown me respect and accepted my Welcome as a gift from our people,” Aunty Joy said.

“I have been shocked and distressed by the way I have been treated by event organisers.

“I am 78 years of age. I have never been treated or spoken to in this way in the past. I do not want this to be a reflection on President Obama. I am a leader of the Wurundjeri Nation. I asked to be treated as an equal.”

Aunty Joy works closely with the Victorian Government and many key event managers for the biggest events in Melbourne. Her Welcome gives meaning to these events and has been deeply felt by each of these dignitaries.

Aunty Joy was also removed from performing traditional cultural protocols at a business lunch with Mr Obama tomorrow.

The proceedings of events such as these hold great significance when the guest of honour participates in the Welcome to Country. It is a public sign of respect.

For Aunty Joy it is an honour to Welcome people like Former President Obama. And likewise, we consider it an honour for him to meet her.

“The Welcome to Country is a very important ceremony for our people. It is an honour to Welcome people like President Obama and I upset that I am unable to do this today,” Aunty Joy said.

The Wurundjeri people are saddened that we cannot welcome Former President Obama to our lands. This has caused grief that the community will be left to deal with long after Mr Obama has left Australia.

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