Dr Aunty Bilawara Lee
Dr Aunty Bilawara Lee is a proud Larrakia woman and Senior Elder who works tirelessly in her community to continue Larrakia people’s connection to Country, culture, and Ancestors through education, language, spirituality and healing.
Aunty Bilawara grew up in Darwin, and is the eldest child of Larrakia Elder Mary Lee (nee Cubillo), and Herbert Lee, a Karajarri man from north Western Australia. Her name Bilawara, means the red-tailed black cockatoo, and is an Ancestral spirit that brings about change. She is a mother of three, grandmother to nine and Aunty to all.
Aunty Bilawara has experienced a diverse career and is passionate about reviving and teaching the Larrakia language and culture for future generations. Aunty Bilawara has been working closely with the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation to revive the Larrakia language, songs and dance. As part of her work to revive and maintain Larrakia culture, Aunty Bilawara attends many workplaces to teach Acknowledgment of Country in Larrakia language and facilitates language workshops. This has included radio presenters at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Australian Defence Force and other government departments. Dr Aunty Bilawara has also taught the Governor General and the previous and present Northern Territory Administrators an Acknowledgement to Country in Larrakia language and regularly performs Welcomes to Country and Smoking ceremonies.
This work does not stop her from continuing the grass roots level work on the ground, and in community, where she organises and cooks a monthly lunch gathering for Larrakia Nation Elders group, the Danila Dilba Stolen Generation Garden Point group, and the Stolen Generation Organisation and works closely to teach language and share culture with local schools and charity organisations.
Aunty Bilawara is recognised by the Larrakia community as a Gurdimin-ba Bali, a Spirit Doctor, a healer and teacher of the ancient wisdoms of Aboriginal Spirituality and Healing. She is also an internationally published author, with two books, Star Dreaming and Healing from the Dilly Bag. She has travelled nationally and internationally conducting workshops on Aboriginal spirituality and healing, and sits on several boards, committees and community groups for her knowledge in Aboriginal culture and practices. This includes being the Chair of the Northern Territory Minister's Health Advisory Committee, Chair of the Menzies School of Health Research's First Nations Advisory Committee, and is a member of the Northern Territory Clinical Senate since January 2018. In 2021 she represented Australia on the International Indigenous Grandmothers Council who are recognised as the wisdom keepers of the world’s ancient sacred knowledges.
Aunty Bilawara is currently the inaugural Larrakia Academic in-Residence at Charles Darwin University where she is actively involved in providing culturally informed guidance on cultural protocols and practices, and support to the University’s staff and students. As an ambassador for Charles Darwin University and a link between higher education, health and the community, Aunty Bilawara encourages others to continue their education as she believes it helps people better their lives, health and employment resulting in better living conditions for all. In April 2023, Aunty Bilawara was honoured with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Charles Darwin University for her work in health, education, cultural and spiritual work.
In 2021, Aunty Bilawara won the Northern Territory NAIDOC Female Elder of the Year Award and in 2022 was a finalist in the Senior Australian of the Year Award, received a Senior of Excellence Award and an Award from the Mental Health Foundation of Australia. Aunty Bilawara’s generosity in building a rich diverse community extends to giving her energy, knowledge and skills to other communities, such as the LGBTIQA+ community and many different ethnic communities who have settled in Darwin. She works closely with the Multi-Cultural Council of Darwin and the Melaleuca Refugee Centre, providing classes to newly arrived refugees, including on how to gain employment.
Aunty Bilawara has supported and worked alongside many of our First Nations Leaders and has always given her time, energy and resources to help others learn about the deep connection to land, seas and sky that we still have today, all while she continues to practice, share and promote Larrakia cultural protocols.