News - 18 November 2022

Bunna Lawrie picks up international First Nations award

Bunna at a presentation for the award at Government House, Adelaide, on 18 November, with Wilderness Society South Australia Director, Peter Owen.

Celebrated musician, Senior Mirning Elder, Whale Songman, activist and close friend of the Wilderness Society, Marbanu Ngumbunna (Bunna) Lawrie has been honoured with an international First Nations award.

The Wisdom Treasure Award celebrates the work of 'an Elder who has dedicated their life to leadership, service and learning for their people and community'. It is presented by Seeds of Wisdom, which seeks to ensure the continuance of Indigenous wisdom and traditions worldwide.

In a first for the award, Bunna is co-winner alongside Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM, a renowned artist, educator and member of the Ngangiwumirr language group.

Bunna was at a special presentation for the award at Government House in Adelaide on 18 November. There will also be a ceremony at the International Funders of Indigenous Peoples Conference in Merida, Mexico in February next year.

“This award is deeply touching to receive," said Bunna. "May this inspire the younger generations to learn about their responsibilities and duties in caring for the Country. This is an opportunity to reach others so that they can learn about how we live and continue our connection with land and sea. This is a global responsibility for Indigenous peoples. We ask non-Indigenous peoples to listen, learn, understand and observe and from this you will receive wisdom and knowledge, for this is our Mirning way that you can also follow.”

Bunna has worked alongside the Wilderness Society South Australia for many years to protect the Great Australian Bight from the fossil fuel industry.

"Congratulations Uncle Bunna on this recognition for you and Miriam-Rose," says Peter Owen, Director, Wilderness Society South Australia. "It's always been an honour to stand with you on a journey that has taken us across the world to protect Mirning Country—the Nullarbor and Great Australian Bight. You're an inspiration to all, a mentor and a friend."

In issue #009 of Wilderness Journal, learn about Mirning culture as Peter Owen joins Bunna on a journey deep into Country on the Nullarbor.

The Mirning Elders in a statement for the award said: "[Bunna] works with organisations like the Wilderness Society to protect Country and to bring awareness to how Indigenous identity is inseparable from Country. This year was the [the Wilderness Society's] first Karajia Award for Children's Literature.

"The Award celebrates children's books from our First Nations authors and/or illustrators. The titles honour a connection to Country and tell stories exploring land, community, culture and language...[Bunna] is a judge for the children’s literature award and offered our Mirning name Karajia to honour the great holders and tellers of stories in these times…

"…We are so happy that he is being recognised and acknowledged in his lifetime with the Wisdom Treasure Award."