Page 915 - Week 03 - Thursday, 30 March 2023

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It is difficult to believe that we will never again be invited by Aunty Agnes to leave our footprints on her land. Last night I rewatched the 2016 documentary by Pat Fiske and Bower Bird Films that Mrs Kikkert has referred to, which was supported by the Tuggeranong Arts Centre, called Footprints on our Land: Aunty Agnes, Ngunnawal Elder. I have often been told that an Aboriginal elder is someone highly respected and held in esteem by their community for their wisdom, cultural knowledge and community service. Aunty Agnes demonstrated all these qualities and more.

Universally talked about with respect and love, Aunty Agnes was described as the face of the Ngunnawal people, having the patience of a saint. Uncle Benny Hodges simply said, “She is the rock.” Uncle Fred Monaghan said, “People listen to her.” And former Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said he was always struck by the quiet strength of Agnes’s leadership.

Her granddaughter, Selina Walker, who is here today of course, described her as a survivor and a warrior who would keep going till the end. And that she did. In November last year she invited me and the Deputy Chief Minister to her home to tell us some home truths about some of the issues in her portfolio that she just did not think were quite right. On 21 January this year she attended Yerrabi Yurwang’s Yuma Day event, where people proudly had their photos taken with her, sensing, I think, that it might be the last time.

In the documentary, Aunty Agnes reflected on the life of her mother, Violet Bulger, who was a child of the stolen generations. Violets Park in Ngunnawal is named after her, as Minister Gentleman has talked about. I can also recall the pride of the large extended family at the celebration in 2017 when the new Canberra track sign and artwork were unveiled at the park.

Aunty Agnes helped to raise her younger siblings after the death of her father, which saved them all from being taken away from their mother in their turn. Tragically, she also lost her own first husband when her children were young and relied on the strength of her community to support her through that very difficult time. The most important thing to Aunty Agnes always was her family: her siblings, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was Nan to them and, in many ways, as others have said and as the motion says, she was Nan to us all.

As a community, we will remember Aunty Agnes as both a loving grandmother and a dignified stateswoman, an advocate for the Ngunnawal people and for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans. Aunty Agnes was instrumental in the establishment of the United Ngunnawal Elders Council, the Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm, and the Galambany Circle Sentencing Court. She showed love and kindness for all, with no time for anger, but rather a focus on how we can work practically to improve life outcomes for Ngunnawal people and the broader community.

These values shone through for all who were lucky enough to spend time with Agnes. I know I valued my time with her and I am grateful for the generosity that Aunty Agnes showed me and many of us here in the Legislative Assembly, sharing her time, her knowledge and her wisdom. I learnt from Aunt every time I had the pleasure of being with her. She was the kind of person who inspires those around her not just to

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