Indigenous elder Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin AO has been stopped from performing a Welcome to Country ceremony for Barack Obama because she was allegedly being “too difficult”.
- Aunty Joy Murphy was due to perform a Welcome to Country ceremony for the former US president’s event in Melbourne
- The Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation says the move has caused “deep offence” to all First Nations people
- Barack Obama has been touring Australia for an international speaking event
The former US president is touring Australia for an event named A Night with Barack Obama, being held at Melbourne’s John Cain arena.
The senior Wurundjeri elder was asked to open Wednesday night’s sold-out event and perform traditional cultural protocols at a business lunch to be attended by Mr Obama on Thursday.
But the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation said event organisers, Growth Faculty, removed Aunty Joy from event proceedings amid claims she was being “too difficult”.
The corporation said Aunty Joy had asked event organisers to “make appropriate accommodations for a support person” to accompany the elder to the event, along with “requests to provide Mr Obama with a gift as is cultural practice”.
“She was told that she was being ‘too difficult’ and was removed from event proceedings,” the corporation said.
“This is a deep offence to the Wurundjeri people and to all First Nations people.
“Our Welcome to Country protocols are our traditional law and practice that have been used to welcome and offer protection to our guests on Wurundjeri lands for millennia.”
Aunty Joy has since been stopped from performing traditional cultural protocols at a business lunch with Mr Obama tomorrow.
Aunty Joy ‘distressed’ by treatment
Aunty Joy said the decision was upsetting.
“I have been shocked and distressed by the way I have been treated by event organisers,” she said.
“I am 78 years of age. I have never been treated or spoken to in this way in the past.
“I do not want this to be a reflection on president Obama.
“I am a leader of the Wurundjeri Nation. I asked to be treated as an equal.”
Aunty Joy has welcomed guests to Wurundjuri land for more than 40 years, providing safe passage to several high-profile people, including Queen Elizabeth II, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama.
Welcome to Countries are part of traditional Wurundjuri law passed down for generations and are considered a great sign of respect when they are performed.
“The Welcome to Country is a very important ceremony for our people,” Aunty Joy said.
“It is an honour to welcome people like President Obama, and I am upset that I am unable to do this.”
Mr Obama landed in Melbourne earlier on Wednesday to a heavy security presence.
Growth Faculty has been contacted for comment.
Mr Obama’s press office has also been contacted.