Yugambeh Elder Patricia O’Connor has been awarded this year for her cultural efforts in the indigenous community with a Queensland Greats Award. Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk presented O’Connor with this on 6 June, along with five other awards given out to individuals and one organisation for their service to the community.

Born in 1928 to Aboriginal parents Stanley Yuke and Edith Graham, she recalls being in close contact with her extended family, who had ties to the land as traditional people of Beaudesert, Southport and Stradbroke Island. Having been born 28 years after the Australian constitution was created, O’Connor lived in a society where Aborigines weren’t recognised as full citizens. They could not own land, receive basic wage or access public facilities. She saw these injustices against her people, and endeavoured to change the world around her for the better.

In 1984 she was the joint founder of the Kombumerri Aboriginal Corporation for Culture. This organisation continues to be one of Queensland’s leading organisations in the field of language and cultural revival. She campaigned for the largest repatriation of Aboriginal remains in 1984, reburying some 200 Aboriginal people that had been excavated from their burial site in the 1960s by the University of Queensland. In 1993 she negotiated for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service men and women to march under their own flags in the Brisbane ANZAC day parade. This was the first time in history that an ANZAC day parade in a capital city allowed such a march. These achievements and more demonstrate O’Connor’s dedication to her people in the face of injustice.

“Don’t let other people define what you can be. Listen to the wise people around you and act to make a better community. Remember, this is about mobo jajrum tomorrow’s children.”

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