Indigenous elder Aunty Joy Murphy said she is “shocked and distressed” after being prevented giving the welcome to country at a speaking event by the former US president Barack Obama yesterday.
Event organiser The Growth Faculty is reported to have dropped Aunty Joy for “being too difficult” after she requested a support person to help her at the event and a gift to present to Obama at his paid talk held at the John Cain Arena.
“She was told that she was being ‘too difficult’ and was removed from event proceedings,” Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation said in a statement.
“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 told the National Indigenous Times she was “shocked and distressed” by the way she was treated by the event organisers.
“I am 78 years of age. I have never been treated or spoken to in this way in the past,” she said.
“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 is a highly respected Wurundjeri elder in Victoria and has given welcome to country to many well known international people including Mohammed Ali, Cardinal Martini, Xanana Gusmao, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, Nelson Hurricane Carter and Naomi Campbell to name but a few.
Following the furor, The Growth Faculty have since issued an apology and allowed Aunty Joy to deliver a welcome to country at Obama’s lunch talk today at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.
“Growth Faculty has apologised to Aunty Joy that last night’s ceremony could not be changed,” the organisers said in a statement.
“Aunty Joy has accepted Growth Faculty’s invitation to perform Welcome to Country at a business lunch taking place in Melbourne today.
“Due to security requirements, the organisation was unable to accommodate last-minute changes to the agreed upon ceremony [on Wednesday].”
Aunty Joy said she “accepted their apology” and looked forward to welcoming Obama onto Wurundjeri Country.
“Although it saddens me to think that I had to go through the events of yesterday, I’m happy that Aboriginal culture has been given appropriate recognition,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.