Governor of NSW's speech at 2017 Wugulora Indigenous Ceremony

His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret'd) delivered the following speech at the Wugulora Indigenous Ceremony at Barangaroo on 26 January 2017.


Thank you to:

  • Uncle Ray Davison – Gadigal Elder  and Master of Ceremonies
  • Ms Yvonne Weldon – Chair, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council – for your Acknowledgement of Country

I acknowledge:

  • Mr Angelos Frangopoulos  – Chair, Australia Day Council of NSW and Board Members
  • Representatives of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council
  • Board Members of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority
  • Our wonderful performers, choreographers and presenters – including Koomurri Aboriginal Dance Troupe, Baraya Singers and Choir, Sydney Festival, Bangarra Dance Theatre, NSW Public School Aboriginal Dance Company and KARI Choir
  • Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen


It is an honour to address you at our 2017 WugulOra Ceremony this morning, a ceremony we are holding in the 50th Anniversary year of the 1967 Referendum.

I acknowledge that we stand on Gadigal land and I pay my respects to the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, the traditional owners, and their Elders, past and present. I also acknowledge our young people whose voices are so important to the future of our nation.

Here within this beautiful harbour-side Barangaroo Reserve, named after one of the strongest of Aboriginal women, we celebrate the world’s oldest surviving and living culture.

This is a place of great ancestral significance, proudly commemorated in honour of Barangaroo, the Cammaraygal wife of Bennelong, and an Aboriginal leader among the Eora people.[1] Barangaroo’s history reminds us of the past struggles and achievements of Aboriginal leaders and ancestors and, thereby, of the example of courage and determination that will help us to work towards a brighter and positive future.[2]

The ‘Yes’ result of the 1967 Referendum, to recognise our First Peoples in our census and our law-making, was the most supported and successful referendum decision in our nation’s history.

Yet, as we all know, recognition, reconciliation and true equality depends on so much more than that first, albeit resounding, step.

As an Australian community, we have further to travel together.

But we are on the right path.

This is a shared journey, a journey of four parts: ‘Acknowledge, apologise, reconcile and build’.

We, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, share a love for this land. The roots and expression of that love may be different but we must use this common feeling as one of the drivers of reconciliation.

We have the opportunity, now, to write a different story, to acknowledge past events and to use that growing understanding to energise us and thus empower this, and the next generation of young Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

We are all learning.

I am also learning.

The story of your people, your ‘country’, pre-dates dispossession – like this land, your story of survival is strong, proud and inspiring.

I, and many other Australians, recognise this. We understand that on this day 229 years ago, the coming of the First Fleet wreaked a terrible impact on your people, your families and your culture.

I, along with millions of other Australians and people around the world, salute the strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, your resilience, your deep history and achievements, which are engrained in the soil and the songlines of this nation - and the vibrancy of your culture that – despite all - continues to illuminate our world after many tens of thousands of years.

We are inspired by your creative energy, vision and knowledge – that is evident here today.

Like everyone here and people around Australia, I am keen for the work that was started with the 1967 referendum to be completed, sooner rather than later, whatever form that might take.

Just as from this site, for many thousands of years, the harbour peoples, the Gadigal and the Cammaraygal people, would set out in nawi canoes on these waters, and journey hundreds of miles to fish, trade and visit other groups, so we as a nation, consisting of people from many national and cultural backgrounds, must cross the waters, and come together as one community.

On this Day, and on every day, I encourage all Australians - families, friends and communities, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, young and old - to recognise the impact of our past history, and the complex emotions this day raises, to open our hearts and share our experiences as Australians. What unites us will make us strong.

And when we move forward together as a nation, as a community,

… in hope

… in pride

… and in reconciliation

We will truly have a reason to celebrate.

I was taken by Professor Michelle Simmons’ conclusion to her Australia Day Address when she said that she wanted Australia to be remembered as the country that did the hard things.  This is hard; let’s do the hard thing and be recognised for it.

In the words of our wonderful Baraya choral singers, as one nation, one people - Wugul-Ora - let’s make good dreaming.


The Barangaroo site was part of the territory of the Cadigal people, the traditional owners of the Sydney city region, and was used for fishing and hunting. Large shell middens and numerous rock engravings close to the site indicate indigenous occupation dating back around 6,000 years, while radio carbon dates from other parts of Sydney indicate that the wider area was occupied for at least 14,500 years prior to European settlement. 

Barangaroo was known as a courageous and determined woman.

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