Legislative Council: Tuesday, July 05, 2022


Newchurch, Uncle Jeffrey

The Hon. T.T. NGO (15:20): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question on the NAIDOC Awards.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.T. NGO: The minister mentioned earlier to the house that Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch won the Premier's NAIDOC Award. I know that he is a great Australian and great friend of mine, who assisted me on various projects, especially the Vietnamese boat people monument project. Will the minister give the house further information about Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Attorney-General, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:21): I thank the honourable member for his question. I am more than happy to give further explanation to the chamber about the reasons why Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch was one of the co-recipients of this year's NAIDOC Award. Most people in this chamber would have had things to do with Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch over the many years of his involvement in public life. I know that he played a crucial role in one of the great projects the Hon. Tung Ngo was involved in, the boat people's memorial down by the River Torrens and its intersection with Kaurna people, and many things on Kaurna country that Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch has been involved in over many years.

As I outlined in reply to a question earlier today, the Premier's NAIDOC Award went to both a male and a female Aboriginal South Australian this year, and the intention is that that will continue into the future, that both an Aboriginal man and an Aboriginal woman will receive this award. The male award winner was Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch, an incredibly well-deserving and well-regarded Aboriginal elder in South Australia.

Uncle Jeffrey is a Narrunga and Kaurna man. He was born at the former mission at Point Pearce on Narrunga country on the Yorke Peninsula. He was educated there before beginning his secondary education at Maitland Area School. I was not aware of this, but yesterday I learnt that Uncle Jeffrey later went on to become the first ever Aboriginal student at Scotch College in Adelaide. Many in this chamber would have crossed paths and know Uncle Jeffrey for his extensive community work and, importantly, providing cultural advice and guidance to non-Aboriginal people in Adelaide.

He has held many committee and advisory positions and helps connect non-Aboriginal people with the oldest living culture on the planet and ensures that Aboriginal cultural authority is recognised and respected. Some of the many positions Uncle Jeffrey has held include with the City of Holdfast Bay as a member of their Kaurna Cultural Heritage Advisory Group, with the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Women's and Children's Hospital as an adviser, and as a member of the City of Adelaide Reconciliation Committee. These are just some of the many projects to which Uncle Jeffrey has lent his knowledge and ability.

He was instrumental in the setting up, as some members of this place would have been involved, of Puti on Kaurna Yerta, or bush on Kaurna land. His leadership and direction was pivotal in ensuring that project had input from Aboriginal people and Aboriginal ways of thinking after services for Aboriginal community members.

In recent years, Uncle Jeffrey has also played a key role, working with the government and the South Australian Museum, in the repatriation of old people back to Kaurna land. Through the site Kaurna Wangayarta at Smithfield, the remains of many old people have been returned to country, and I know from experience, both last year and this year, of the incredible and meaningful moving ceremonies that have seen hundreds of remains of Aboriginal old people return from institutions to be reburied on Kaurna land.

One of the projects and undertakings I know Uncle Jeffrey is particularly passionate about is his work mentoring young Aboriginal people. He speaks powerfully about the importance of supporting young people to reach their full potential and also for them to connect with their culture and with the rich history that lives on through elders in this state.

I know, as many people do here, Uncle Jeffrey well and have been grateful for his advice and guidance over many years and for the advice and guidance he provides governments at all levels, state, federal and local, in supporting Aboriginal people. I know, speaking over the last few days to Uncle Jeffrey, he recalled fondly only a couple of weeks ago spending time with the new federal minister for Indigenous peoples, Linda Burney, at the AIATSIS conference in Queensland recently and providing the federal minister with the benefit of his advice and views and next steps forward, as he regularly does provide me with the benefit of that advice.

I think Uncle Jeffrey is an incredibly deserving winner of the Premier's NAIDOC Award, and it was a touching moment to see him receive that award from the Premier yesterday.