AT the proud age of 84, Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta Senior Elder Fay Carter can remember seeing her people struggling to survive.
The suffering and sadness she has seen in her lifetime still makes her emotional.
And it drives her to advocate for a brighter future for the generations to come.
Aunty Fay is a former patron of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency and an elder on the organisation’s Aboriginal Family Led Decision Making Panel.
She is VACCA life member and chaired the organisation for eight years.
Aunty Fay is a former president of the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee, and the co-founder and inaugural manager of the Aboriginal Community Elders Services.
For years, she was involved in the Aborigines Advancement League and the Commonwealth Department of Social Security.
Aunty Fay sits on the Worowa Aboriginal College board of directors and was a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission for two years.
The work she has done for her people has already seen her honoured numerous times.
Aunty Fay features in the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll, the Victorian Honour Roll of Women, and was a 2001 Centenary Medal recipient.
But a nomination for this year’s Australia Day honours prompted some soul searching.
It marks a day when trauma was imposed upon her people.
“That really bothered me, the idea I’d have to go somewhere on Australia Day,” Aunty Fay said.
But all that is happening today is the announcement she’s being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia. The presentation doesn’t take place for some months.
Learning that eased her mind. “I’m feeling ok,” Aunty Fay said.
Much has changed since the memories that cause her pain were formed – and continues to change.
Whereas her people were once punished for practicing their culture and language, today efforts are underway to ensure it is preserved.
Aunty Fay said she accepted the Medal of the Order of Australia in honour of all those who came before her, and the next generation of leaders.
“I think it’s good for the younger ones to see what can be achieved,” she said.
In her own words: Aunty Fay Carter
I am a Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta Senior Elder.
I am a First Nations person descended from ancestors that are the traditional owners of central Victoria and the central Murray River greater areas. My ancestors continued their long association with country and culture while the newcomers intruded onto to our lands and decimated and destroyed our villages, homes and farms.
Nevertheless I, and because of them, can be proud to be the recipient of an Australia Day award from my own life’s endeavours of helping and assisting others, and that in another world from another history of our own choosing could have been bestowed upon me by my Elders and Ancestors. It is in part why I accept this award that we are to believe in the truth of our ancestry and the rightful place of my people then this award is for them.
Awards such as this, and as significant as they are to an individual, are somewhat delivered from those that are less fortunate and our love and care to them is recognised by the actions of an individual. Our greatest strength is our collective will to address disadvantage and injustice. To agree to receive this award allows me an opportunity to respectfully voice an opinion that is constructive for the greater good.
I understand the importance for our communities to celebrate upon many achievements that can give us pride in who we are. The Dja Dja Wurrung’s recent history is a celebration of our survival and the achievements we have made through our Recognition and Settlement Agreement and partnership with the State of Victoria. Today, the Dja Dja Wurrung are a strong and vibrant peoples and we pride ourselves upon the ability to be resilient.
The Dja Dja Wurrung, now and into the future, will continue to be a strong, constructive and respectful voice of the advocacy for our people’s proper place in community matters. We hope increasingly others will share this vision with us, so that one day we could lead the celebration of this land as our home and as First People take our rightful place, to be good leaders and govern our lands for the benefit of all people.
It is for these reasons that we do not celebrate a day because of the trauma imposed upon my people and dream of a day that can be chosen and shared by all, as an Australian Day that is representative of who we truly are. We are not Terra Nullius, we are not conquered, we have never ceded, we are the first people and we are still here.
We believe that it is time for us to come together as a nation and have a national day that is inclusive of all of our histories.
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