The Narrm Oration, delivered annually since 2009, is the University’s key address that profiles leading Indigenous peoples from across the world in order to enrich our ideas about possible futures for Indigenous Australia.
‘Narrm’ refers to the country of the Melbourne region. The 2017 Narrm Oration, Resilience and Reconstruction: the agency of women in rebuilding strong families, communities and organisations, was delivered by Ms June Oscar AO.
Ms Oscar is a proud Bunuba woman from the remote town of Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. She is a strong advocate for Indigenous Australian languages, social justice, women’s issues, and has worked tirelessly to reduce Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
Ms Oscar has held a raft of influential positions including Deputy Director of the Kimberley Land Council, chair of the Kimberley Language Resource Centre and the Kimberley Interpreting Service and Chief Investigator with WA’s Lililwan Project addressing FASD. She was appointed to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (1990) and was a winner of the 100 Women of Influence 2013 in the Social Enterprise and Not For Profit category. In 2015 Ms Oscar received the Menzies School of Health Research Medallion for her work with FASD. Ms Oscar is a co-founder of the Yiramalay Wesley Studio School and is a Community member of the Fitzroy Valley Futures Governing Committee. In February 2017, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from Edith Cowan University.
Ms Oscar began her five-year term as Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner on April 3, 2017.
The Uluru Statement has inspired Indigenous people and many other Australians to think big about their sense of Australian nationhood and the potential for Indigenous recognition and inclusion in Australian nation building. Within this thinking, must be addressed the fundamental importance of rebuilding Indigenous communities whose cultural, social and economic fabric have been shattered by colonisation over many generations.
In the 2017 Narrm Oration, Resilience and Reconstruction: the agency of women in rebuilding strong families, communities and organisations, Ms Oscar suggests that the Australian nation must invest in a strengths-based approach to Indigenous community rebuilding and recovery and recognise that our Indigenous female leaders are the greatest agents for change and empowerment in this country. There is much to celebrate when we consider their great work and that of the non-Indigenous women who have supported the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and partnered with them in building a better tomorrow.