On Wednesday 21 March the Barker Institute was privileged to host Phillip Heath interviewing Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM, as part of her visit to Barker College with other members of the Anmatjere community from Akaye (Mulga Bore) in the Northern Territory.

Rosalie has been an actor, a nun, a foster carer, a court interpreter, a politician, an activist, Chancellor of the Batchelor Institute and an award-winning advocate for better housing, medical care and education for Indigenous Australians. Rosalie talked about her experiences making the iconic Australian film Jedda as a teenager, her time in the Anglican Community in Melbourne and her community work.

Rosalie explained some aspects of her Anmatjere worldview to us, for example the high level of spirituality and connection to the country (“the land owns us”) and to each other which characterises her community. She spoke about human relationships as the most fundamentally important thing in life, and giving to anyone or anything that needs your help (“when you have nothing else to give, keep on giving”). Her view is that Indigenous people do not put much store in material possessions and she offered to share her connection with Country, language and culture with others. Rosalie spoke about her hope that the consumer culture of the 21st Century will give way to a more united humanity where we “walk hand in hand together into the future and become grey together”.

During the conversation, Rosalie and Phillip also discussed the importance of reconciliation and self-determination. In Rosalie’s view “we haven’t started reconciling, we need to be factual about history, factual about the destruction of human lives”, thus “when we talk about reconciliation, we must first talk about respect for human life”. Rosalie outlined her vision for the future of the young people in her community, in particular that they be educated in a culturally appropriate way which does not require them to assimilate. As Rosalie said, “Aboriginal people need to take the lead to make decisions about their land”.

In addition to the conversation between Phillip and Rosalie, artworks by four visiting artists from Akaye were available for members of the audience to purchase. There was heated bidding on several pieces and the sale raised $5,500 for the cultural immersion school the Akaye community is opening on their Country next year.

Sophie Mynott

Sophie Mynott was the Indigenous Education Project Leader at Barker College. Currently she is establishing an Indigenous education strategy for the School and assists teachers to bring Indigenous histories, cultures and perspectives into their classroom. She also works with Indigenous communities and organisations to improve access to education for Indigenous students, and to develop the understanding and commitment to reconciliation of non-Indigenous students and teachers. Sophie’s other experience in education has involved roles at the NSW Education Standards Authority and a casual academic role at the University of NSW. She is the Deputy President of the Legal Studies Assoc of NSW, and lectures students and delivers professional development to teachers across NSW. As a Legal Studies teacher Sophie has a passion for social justice and loves engaging students with the issues of the day.