Photographer Eva Fernandez beautifully captures the spirit and essence of the City of Perth’s Elders Advisory Group, alongside oral histories which reflect on their lives.
The Elders are the Bridyas (bosses) and as such are recognised, valued and honoured by the City as heads of the Aboriginal community.
With the help of the Elders Advisory Group, the City of Perth launched its first solid Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan in 2018 with the aim of moving forward to better and more trusting relationships in the future. This is one way the City is recognising our rich culture and ongoing commitment towards reconciliation.
The exhibition Moorditj Bridyas - Solid Bosses will be on display in Council House until 29 January and the catalogue is available to be viewed online.
Introducing the City of Perth’s Moorditj Bridyas – Solid Bosses
Aunty Muriel Bowie
“The portraits are a legacy for the younger generations. It shows what the Elders are doing for younger people. I have five great grandsons and they can say hey, look there’s old nana!
“It’s about learning to walk together or nothing is going to happen or change. I’ll be 80 next year. I’ve been with Perth City Council for more than two years and there’s been change, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Aunty Margaret Culbong
“It is all about telling out stories and leaving a legacy behind. My Elders have been around for many years and they’ve taught me many things.
“Working with my Elders has given me the confidence to go forward, to set a pathway for generations to come so that our law and culture can last another 40 to 50,000 years.”
Aunty Doolan Leisha Eatts
“Elders are important because they’re the leaders. They’ve always been the leaders in our culture and young Aboriginal people look up to them and they’re well respected. They’ve always had leading roles in our culture and that has been passed down. It’s good to see Elders out in front taking the lead now too.
“I’ve been well respected by young people here. The portraits show that we are respected. It brings a strong message through our community for the young people to look up to. It teaches all people to look up to all their Elders and respect them.”
Uncle Walter Eatts
“I’m living in 2020 – the portraits are very important because they are the first signs of visual identification that Aboriginal people belong to Perth and Western Australia. It is the first time we’ve had a voice.”
Uncle Farley Garlett
“It is very important the Elders get recognised for the input and work they have done with the City of Perth. Any opportunity we get as Elders to present a positive story, or even a negative one, to the main powers is encouraging.
“We’ve been lucky that the City of Perth has been receptive to the conversations we’ve had over the last few years. It has been nothing but positive.
“The Elders Portraits recognise the hard work we have done – to document and leave a legacy of the Elders that have worked here. The portraits tell our people and other people that there was a relationship going on between City of Perth and Whadjuk Elders.”
Uncle Albert McNamara
“The Elders Portraits are very important. It is all about working together. The only way we are going to do it is to work together and support each other.
“It is a two-way learning, let’s make things happen together for Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people. We have to learn to work together – never be ashamed of your colour or your culture, hold your head up and be proud of where you come from.”
Aunty Irene McNamara
“The City of Perth is a leading city council, probably Australia-wide, through the Elders voices and input. They have moved on from not knowing many cultures and traditions of the Whadjuk and Aboriginal people to changing the names of streets and areas in the City of Perth council. It shows City of Perth, Aboriginal people and non-Aboriginal people working together on Whadjuk Country.
“For myself, my portrait is representing the truth – growing up in settlements and reserves and my parents not being able to live in town until 1962. We’ve been through ups and downs, but we have come out on top and stayed there.
“The portrait will also leave a legacy for my family who will walk through the doors of the City of Perth for times to come and will be proud to see me up there. I don’t suppose they will ever come down – it will stay there like all the Lord Mayors who stay there. We are up there with the Lord Mayors - walking together to get things done.”
Uncle Noel Nannup
“It has been an exciting journey really. One of the first things we did was establish the Eldership and I was lucky enough to get a guernsey and be involved in that. One of the things we began to do was work out what our role would be because the City of Perth gave us that opportunity and we were then able to introduce a Reconciliation Action Plan.
“It makes me feel valued and that’s all we need in life, to feel valued and understood. When we talk, we need someone to listen to us and exhibit the qualities of not just a listener, but of someone who has heard and that’s exactly what’s happened with the City of Perth. It is beautiful, absolutely beautiful.”
Uncle Ben Taylor
“It is important to have our voices enshrined. I go back 80 years. I wasn’t allowed in town and I needed to be out of town at 6pm. Now I live in East Perth and times have changed and we are working on getting a treaty next. There’s still a long way to go.”
Aunty Theresa Walley
“It is acknowledging the Elders who have contributed and dedicated their whole lives ensuring the wellbeing of the local community is always a high priority. They work tirelessly for that.
“Working with City of Perth allows them to continue supporting the community from a local level. Commitment is valued here and it is a two-way process. I think the City of Perth need to be recognised for their commitment to the Elders, and the Elders for their commitment to the community. It is to bring about respect and bring about change to ensure Aboriginal people are recognised. The City of Perth have taken a courageous step forward in making Aboriginal people part of the council and including a voice for Aboriginal people. I am very proud.”