TONIGHT, Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir, Boon Wurrung and Wamba Wamba Elder, is being inducted into the 2020 Victorian Honour Roll of Women. She is being honoured in recognition of her 40 years of community service across Victoria in the fields of language revival, health, education, cultural advocacy and Koori prisoner programs.
Aunty Fay is much loved and respected by people in Bass Coast for her contribution over many years in local schools and pre-schools and through her involvement in intercultural, environmental and community projects such as Coastal Connections, Island Story-gatherers, The Island Whale Festival and the Biyadin Shearwater Festival.
Aunty Fay received a strong education in values from her parents and grandparents. With three generations of family members living in the house, she grew up feeling safe and loved. From an early age she knew who she was. This strong foundation in values education and a deep quality of care in her family is the well from which Aunty Fay has drawn for her generous service to the community throughout her life. It all starts with the love of the family, she believes.
Aunty Fay has a keen awareness of inequity, violence, racism and discrimination. She knew from her own school experience that the history she had been taught about her people and her Country was dishonest. This led to her life-long passion for teaching in order to redress the dishonesty of schooling. She has always had a strong sense of social justice and an awareness of social and cultural inequities. Aunty Fay works from a position of strength and understanding and believes that witnessing racism has made her stronger.
Aunty Fay trained and worked as a nurse and is also a qualified primary school teacher. She feels that both children and teachers are calling out for knowledge. She believes that children have a right to know the truth and to understand that Aboriginal people are here and are generous in offering the knowledge that they have. She recognises the importance of passing that knowledge on to children so they too can pass it on to future generations. It’s a long learning process for them too, she says.
The State Government has appointed Aunty Fay to serve as a Koori Court Elder. She sits on the bench as an Elder and provides cultural advice and mentoring in Juvenile Courts, the County Court and the Magistrates’ Court. She facilitates cultural awareness training for members of the Victorian Corrections system, including judges. She also undertakes prison visits and provides support, cultural guidance and language education for Koori prisoners.
Aunty Fay is a published author. In 2018, Nganga: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Words and Phrases, which Aunty Fay co-authored with Sue Lawson, was published by Black Dog Books. In 2020, through Magabala Books, she published ‘Respect’, in collaboration with co-author Sue Lawson and Trawlwoolaway artist Lisa Kennedy and another book in the series, called ‘Family’.
Through her work at the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages, Aunty Fay provides advice about language protocols, connects people to appropriate community members throughout the State, and contributes language translations in her native Boon Wurrung and Wemba Wemba languages. Her contribution to creative language revival is an affirmation of the rich cultural and linguistic heritage of Indigenous people everywhere.
In Aunty Fay’s words:
Language is central to understanding and celebrating culture. Creative revival of Aboriginal languages strengthens communities as well as language and culture. When used in songs, stories and other creative arts practices, Aboriginal languages become accessible to children and the broader community, enriching all involved. We love to hear Aboriginal languages being spoken and sung once again. So does the Country.
Aunty Fay Stewart-Muir will be honoured tonight in a virtual ceremony and we celebrate and congratulate her. We also acknowledge and thank community member Kay Setches who was instrumental in the establishment of the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2001.
2020 Victorian Honour Roll of Women