N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM
Carolyn is a Boon Wurrung senior elder and is the chairperson and founder of the Boon Wurrung Foundation. She has been involved in developing and supporting opportunities for Indigenous youth and Boon Wurrung culture for over 50 years.
A big part of her work is defining her role as an elder, but also having it validated by the wider community. This involves teaching a generation of children about language and history.
Carolyn was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in 2019 for her significant service to the Indigenous community and she sees this national recognition as part of her role of an elder.
She has undertaken studies in Language & Linguistics in the hope of recording her Boon Wurrung language in oral and written form, as well as a Doctorate in Philosophy – Media & Communication researching assisting urban Indigenous youth to understand Indigenous knowledge, which has been part of Carolyn’s life-long journey documenting the history of her ancestors.
“I bring knowledge of the generations before me,” Carolyn said: “This comes with authority, and I’ve been able to recognise that having authority to speak comes with certain responsibilities. I can formulate my knowledge into a Western construct, writing it in a framework that can be validated. This includes mapping, recordings, documentation and language.”
Carolyn is passionately committed to sharing the values and heritage of Melbourne’s First Peoples – the Boon Wurrung – and believes that a sense of a shared history of Melbourne is important in uniting the whole community. From this history, Carolyn has come to understand the significance of Boonwurrung values, how these are built on principles of sustainability, caring for Country, care for one another, and sustaining knowledge for a better future.
Carolyn’s journey has defined not only her research, but her life and the lives of many others in and around her community.