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7 – 14 July 2024
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Aunty Muriel Bamblett

Aunty Muriel Bamblett

Person of the Year

The National NAIDOC committee are thrilled to announce Aunty Muriel Bamblett as a finalist for the Person Award category.

Aunty Muriel Bamblett is a proud Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung, Boon Wurrung Elder. 
As CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) since 1999, Aunty Muriel has advocated and advanced the interests of Aboriginal children and families, and has embedded culture in everything VACCA does to build resilience, self esteem, connection and belonging.

Aunty Muriel has expanded the breadth and depth of services for Aboriginal children and young people in need. The organisation has grown significantly since 1999 with over 1000 employees and over 80 programs and is the leading one of its type in Australia.

Under Aunty Muriel’s leadership, VACCA has advocated strongly for the right of Aboriginal children to be raised in his/her own culture and the importance and value of family, extended family, kinship networks, culture and community in raising or ‘growing up’ Aboriginal children.

Aunty Muriel’s impactful leadership has led to significant policy and legislative reforms. She has lobbied successfully for major changes to Victorian laws so that it now includes - recognition of connection to culture and community as critical for the best interests of Aboriginal children; decision making processes for Aboriginal children which include self-determination and the Aboriginal child placement principle; and the requirement for cultural support plans for Aboriginal children in out-of-home care.

Aunty Muriel pushed for the culmination of the Section 18 Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care Program, which enables the Principal Officer of VACCA (CEO) to perform functions and powers of the Secretary for authorised children. It is due to Aunty Muriel’s drive that Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care (Nugel) has been such a success and is the first time in Australia that State power has been transferred back to the Aboriginal community. As the child’s ‘Aboriginal guardian’ Aunty Muriel is involved with the child and makes sure they are connected to their culture, community and country, that they have strong Aboriginal role models, that they are proud and strong in their Aboriginal identity and that they know their family, their parents, their siblings and their kin, as culture starts with family, community and connection. 

Aunty Muriel is a strong advocate for voice for her community and never sways in her commitment to improve outcomes for children and families. As Chairperson of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), the peak Australian agency for Indigenous child and family services, she has championed new approaches to federal engagement in the Aboriginal children’s agenda and supported Aboriginal communities across the country to develop and deliver innovative and effective child and family support policies and programs. Under her visionary leadership more and more Aboriginal communities picked up the challenging task of trying to ensure that their children and grandchildren were able to grow up safe, proud, confident Aboriginal people.

Aunty Muriel is actively involved on numerous State and National committees including the: 

  • Coalition of Peaks Joint Council on Closing the Gap, 
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Safety Committee, 
  • Aboriginal Justice Forum, 
  • Aboriginal Children’s Forum 
  • Elders Voice Standing Group for the First Nations Treaty Assembly
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family and Sexual Violence Advisory Group
  • Aboriginal Community Elders Service, to name a few.

Recognized for her significant contributions, Aunty Muriel received the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2019 for distinguished service to the Indigenous community in Victoria as an advocate for the self-determination and cultural rights of children. 

Aunty Muriel has been inducted into the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll and the Victorian Honour Roll of Women and received the Women’s Electoral Lobby Inaugural Vida Goldstein Award. 

Academic institutions have also recognised Aunty Muriel’s work. In 2009 La Trobe University’s Faculty of Health Sciences appointed Aunty Muriel as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Work and Social Policy. In 2017 the University of Sydney awarded Aunty Muriel the Doctor of Letters in Social Work, honouring her leadership in Indigenous welfare and affairs. The award recognised her efforts to bring about welfare legislation in Victoria with a fundamental commitment to the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, to their families, community, culture, and identity.

Aunty Muriel is an inspiring person, truly committed to the welfare of Aboriginal people. Through her tireless efforts, she is shaping a brighter future for Aboriginal families in Victoria, inspiring the next generation of proud, strong leaders to continue the legacy of advocacy and empowerment. 

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