Friday, 18 November 2022

Reception to present the Wisdom Treasure Award

I warmly welcome everyone to Government House this afternoon to present the Wisdom Treasure Award to Uncle Bunna Lawrie and Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann.

Unfortunately, Dr Miriam-Rose is unable to be with us this, so we welcome her sister, Pilawuk White, to receive the award on her behalf.


Each year, the Seeds of Wisdom organisation presents the Wisdom Treasure Award to an elder who has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to bringing wisdom, leadership, service, and learning to their people and their communities.

Uncle Bunna and Dr Miriam-Rose are now in the company of award winners from Indigenous cultures around the world.

As elders from their respective communities, you are both the keepers of tradition, of a profound relationship with the living world, and of the sacred.

Your many achievements, which I will attempt to capture succinctly here, are an inspiration to us all.

Dr Miriam-Rose, born to the Ngangiwumirr language group, is dedicated to creating bright and fulfilling futures for Aboriginal children, and was the first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher in the Northern Territory.

She is the founder of the Miriam Rose Foundation as well as the highly successful Merrepen Arts Centre.

Uncle Bunna worked tirelessly to protect the land and waters of his people, the Mirning, as well as their totem, the whale.

The Fight for the Bight activities led the largest grassroots action to protect Country in Australian history.

He is also one of Australia’s leading indigenous musicians.

Uncle Bunna and Dr Miriam-Rose, congratulations on receiving this well-deserved honour, and for serving your communities with such dedication over so many years.

The Wisdom Treasure award highlights the wisdom and perspective you, as well as so many elders, bring to Australian society, and how we might all learn from it.

Honouring this wisdom and perspective is very important to us at Government House, as we seek to take an active role in the reconciliation process.

In my career as a diplomat and now Governor, I have had the privilege of spending time with indigenous elders, listening intently and learning from them.

Deep listening is embedded in the cultures of both the Mirning and Ngangiwumirr people – as many of you know intimately.

The word ‘Mirning’ means ‘to listen, understand and gain knowledge’, while in Dr Miriam-Rose’s culture there is a concept called ‘Dadirri’, which refers to inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness.

This ability to listen deeply – not just to others, but to the natural environment itself – is one of many important gifts that indigenous cultures has to offer to western culture.

I thank Uncle Bunna and Dr Miriam-Rose, as well as all Aboriginal people here this afternoon, for sharing this quality with our broader society.

Attentive and respectful listening is something we endeavour to do here at Government House, especially as we embark upon a process of cultural mapping for this site of Lot 1 North Terrace.

Our goal is to incorporate a more complex and complete historical understanding into our appreciation and our presentation of this place.

We want to share stories that may previously have been hidden or interpreted in very specific ways, making this even more truly a Government House for all South Australians.

I look forward to sharing our learnings with you and the broader community as the mapping process unfolds.


Congratulations once again to Uncle Bunna and Dr Miriam-Rose on receiving the Wisdom Treasure Award.

Your work and your wisdom is a gift to the people of South Australia, the Northern Territory, our nation and the world.

I offer you my deepest gratitude and thanks as we walk the path of reconciliation together, as well as my warmest wishes for the future.

Coming events