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7 – 14 July 2024
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Aunty Dulcie Flower

Aunty Dulcie Flower AM

Lifetime Achievement Award

Aunty Dulcie Flower AM was born in Cairns in 1938. Aunty Dulcie’s mother was of the Meriam People of Torres Strait. Aunty Dulcie has left an indelible mark on Australian history through her unwavering dedication to activism, advocacy, and community development. 

Aunty Dulcie’s Grandfather was born on Mer (Murray Island) with the family later moving to Erub (Darnley Island). Aunty Dulcie has fond memories of growing up as part of the Torres Strait Community in Cairns and enjoyed the regions multicultural atmosphere. Aunty Dulcie recalls the vibrant pearl and trochus shell industries in Cairns during her youth and how these industries, and those that worked in them, touched the lives of her family. 

As the oldest in her family, Aunty Dulcie left school early to join the workforce. Whilst employed in her first role at a timber mill, Aunty Dulcie attended night school, eventually moving into office work and later becoming a registered nurse. Aunty Dulcie relocated to Sydney to advance her career by studying midwifery and working for several years as an operating room nurse. 

During this time, Aunty Dulcie was invited by her Aboriginal colleagues to meet community members, leading her to join the Aborigines Progressive Association, led at the time by the late Elder Bert Groves. This led to the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI), for which Aunty Dulcie served as Conference Delegate and eventually General Secretary. 

FCAATSI had a broad, progressive focus, campaigning for improved outcomes for First Nations peoples in regard to cultural recognition, industrial equality, health, legal protections, education, housing, clean water, proper waste disposal, and land ownership. FCAATSI fought to end racism and discriminatory legislation, and fought for self-determination. Notably, FCAATSI campaigned for change to the Commonwealth Constitution in 1967, resulting in a successful referendum that recognised First Nations people’s constitutional right to vote and to the provision of Commonwealth Services. This meant that for the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples had the “right to choose”.

Aunty Dulcie was later invited by members of the Redfern community to participate in the planning of a community medical clinic. In collaboration with her community, South Sydney Community Aid, and doctors from Prince Wales Hospital, Aunty Dulcie helped to establish the Aboriginal Medical Service Co-operative (AMS Redfern), a vital community service. Aunty Dulcie has dedicated many years to AMS Redfern, acting as a foundation member and a volunteer, before eventually being elected Director of the AMS Redfern board, a role she continue to hold today. Aunty Dulcie has represented AMS Redfern on panels discussing health issues at all levels. Aunty Dulcie recognises her work with AMS Redfern has having inspired her later work as a Community Educator and a Health Worker Education Program Co-ordinator.

Aunty Dulcie has since connected with international organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN). In attending the WHO’s workshop on Globalisation and Diabetes at Yale University, Aunty Dulcie was able to discuss health issues with a team of researchers from Sub-Saharan Nations, Vietnam, Mexico, USA, and Australia. Aunty Dulcie acted as a delegate for the UN’s End of Decade International Women’s Conference in Kenya.

Aunty Dulcie has acted in several high profile roles, including her appointment to the Torres Strait Advisory Board of ATSIC, as Regional Councillor of Sydney Regional Council, as a member of the NSW Torres Strait Islander Organisation, and as a member of the inaugural Board of Bangarra.

Throughout her career Aunty Dulcie has maintained a connection to her roots in health care and has been a member of Carers New South Wales, an honorary Fellow of the Australian College of Nursing and a foundation member of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Nurses and Midwives. Aunty Dulcie is currently involved in a research project on Aboriginal Women Activists in Redfern.

Aunty Dulcie Flower’s contributions have been recognised on a national scale, culminating in her appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 2019 for her significant service to the Indigenous community and her pivotal role in the 1967 Referendum Campaign.

Amongst her many achievements, Aunty Dulcie recognises the importance of her family. Aunty Dulcie has two children, 5 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren, who she couldn’t be prouder of.  Aunty Dulcie also acknowledges the people who have impacted her throughout her journey, stating:

“So I have met the most amazing people, mentored by the late, with respect, Faith Bandler, Pastor Doug Nicholls, Joe McGinness, Bert Groves, PeRl Gibbs,  Aunt Geraldine Briggs, Gladys Elphick, Winnie Branson, and with colleagues including Joyce Clague, Evelyn Scott, Bruce MacGuiness, Ken Brindle, Isobel Kent, Sally Goold, Ray Peckham, Naomi Mayers and Sol Bellear.

My Torres Strait family has also mentored me and I am blessed to have the privilege of working with Aboriginal People and also with Torres Strait Islanders to gain justice and equality in this country. An important aspect has been encouraging non-Aboriginal students and professionals to work with our peoples not for them, in the ongoing struggles to achieve equality in access to the necessities of life, cultural acknowledgement and respect, freedom from racism, optimum standards of housing, health, education, clean water supply, and land ownership.”

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We acknowledge all First Peoples of the beautiful lands on which we live and celebrate their enduring knowledge and connections to Country. We honour the wisdom of and pay respect to Elders past and present.