Brenda Croft, artist, standing because photograph in Bangaroo
Photograph by Daniel Boud

Brenda L Croft, multidisciplinary creative-led researcher, 2024 Gough Whitlam & Malcom Fraser Visiting Chair of Australian Studies, Harvard University and the Embassy’s Cultural Programming Team are hosting panel discussions to commemorate NAIDOC Week and the 2024 theme - Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud and Proud. The panels will celebrate the strong, resilient First Nations women of Australia with illuminating discussions with Australian First Nations Women Elders and Rising Leaders.

Croft's exhibition Naabámi (thou shall / will see): Barangaroo (army of me) opens to the public in the Quentin Bryce Gallery. The exhibition is a series of large-scale photographic portraits of contemporary Australian First Nations women and girls, with cultural connections across Australia. Naabámi (thou shall / will see) honours Barangaroo, the Cammeraygal Warrior woman (? – 1791) who acts as a constant ancestral guide for the women and girls represented in this major installation.

Join us on 9 July, 12:30-4:30pm 
RSVP required - RSVP HERE

12:30 pm Light Refreshments
1pm Welcome from Australia’s Ambassador to the United States, the Hon Dr
Kevin Rudd
1:10pm Intro remarks from Professor Brenda L Croft, 2024 Gough Whitlam & Malcolm Fraser Visiting Chair of Australian Studies, Harvard University; Naabámi (thou shall/will see: Barangaroo (army of me), multi-disciplinary creative-led researcher

1:20– 2:20pm Honouring Ancestors - Elders and Rising Leaders

This panel comprises Australian First Nations women and girls who are Elders, Rising Leaders and all Naabámi participants, including Dr Aunty Matilda House (Ngambri People, 2023 National NAIDOC Aboriginal Elder of the Year), Aunty Bronwyn Penrith (Wiradjuri People, lifelong Indigenous Rights activist), Leah House (Ngambri Wiradjuri Ngunnawal Peoples, Community Activist), and Sasha Croft (Gurindji Malngin Mudburra Peoples, secondary student) in discussion with artist, Professor Brenda L Croft.

2:20 – 2:30pm

2:30 – 3:10pm Gallery Walk-through / Artists’ talk by Brenda L Croft, with Prue Hazelgrove

3:10 - 3:20pm Break

3:20 – 4:20pm

Murrudha: Sovereign Walks - tracking cultural actions through art, Country, language and music, Track #5

Djinama Yilaga members:

  • Aunty Iris White (Ngarigo/Monaro Peoples)
  • Michelle Davison (Ngarigo/Monaro Peoples)
  • Maria Walker (Monero-Ngarigo, Bidwell, Dirringanj & Walbunga Peoples)

In conjunction with Nations classical and innovative composer, musician and performer Brenda Gifford (Yuin People), discussing the role of Meneroo/Ngarigo/Yuin language reclamation, reinvigoration and reimagination in cultural health and wellbeing through the creation of innovative works, and their respective involvement in Murrudha: Sovereign Walks – tracking cultural actions through art, Country, language and music, an Australian National University Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Grand Challenges project.


Professor Brenda L Croft

Brenda L Croft is from the Gurindji / Malngin / Mudburra peoples from the Victoria River region of the Northern Territory of Australia, and Anglo-Australian/Chinese/German/Irish/Scottish heritage.

Since the mid-1980s Brenda Croft has been a key participant in Australian and international First Nations and broader contemporary arts/cultural sectors as a multi-disciplinary creative practitioner – artist, author, curator, educator, researcher and scholar.

Brenda's creative-led research encompasses Critical Indigenous Performative Collaborative Autoethnography and Storywork methedologies, often working closely with her patrilineal family and community.

Brenda is based at the ANU as Professor of Indigenous Art History & Curatorship, living and working with Ngambri/Ngunnawal/Walgalu/ Wiradjuri Traditional Custodians on their unceded Ancestral Country.

Currently, Brenda is the 2024 Gough Whitlam & Malcolm Fraser Visiting Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard, living and working on the Ancestral Homelands of the Massachusett.

Dr Aunty Matilda House

Dr Aunty Matilda (Williams) House was born in 1945 on Erambie Aboriginal Reserve, Cowra NSW, and raised at Hollywood Aboriginal Reserve, Yass. Matilda is a proud Ngambri-Ngunnawal woman who has a long and respected association with the ANU, acknowledged with an Honorary Doctorate in 2017. She was instrumental in establishing the Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre in association with the Indigenous students on campus in 1989.

Matilda's ties with the ANU have been an extension of her determined pursuit of social justice for Indigenous people in the wider community. She was a tireless supporter of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy when it was established in 1972, helped to establish the Aboriginal Legal Service in Queanbeyan in the 1980s and has served as a member of the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee.

Matilda established and is now Chair of the Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, and is a member of many Canberra and Queanbeyan Indigenous committees and organisations. She has been a key supporter and partner on Murrudha: Sovereign Walks, especially championing the 1873 walk from Queanbeyan to Cooma by First Nations Elder, Nellie Hamilton. Aunty Matilda is the 2023 NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) National Elder of the Year.

Aunty Bronwyn Penrith

Aunty Bronwyn Penrith is a proud Wiradjuri woman who has dedicated more than 40 years working towards equality, recognition and rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Her strong commitment to Community and culture has driven her to collaborate in the sectors of business, art and government where she works to amplify the voices of Aboriginal people, particularly the experiences of women.

As chairperson of Mudgin-gal Aboriginal Women’s centre, Aunty Bronwyn has contributed to establishing a safe space for Indigenous women and children experiencing family violence in Sydney and throughout NSW. Based in Redfern, Mudgin-gal Aboriginal Women’s centre has been fundamental in addressing family violence within community, empowering Aboriginal women through culture and creating a safe healing space.

She is also a member of the City of Sydney’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, which reviews the City’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander protocols and makes a positive contribution to the organisation's relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, organisations and leaders.

Aunty Bronwyn also uses her qualifications as a registered dispute practitioner in her role as deputy chair of Burbangana Group. Burbangana work with People, Organisations and Community, providing mentoring; cultural competency; and business planning - to name a few!

As a mother, grandmother, great grandmother and recognised Elder it is powerful to see the ripples of strength that emerge from each deadly woman of culture.

Iris White

Iris White is a Monero-Ngarigo/Walbunga Elder and founding member of Djinama Yilaga. She holds a Bachelor of Adult Education and has extensive experience at the Vocational Education and Training Sector having worked for TAFE NSW for more than twenty-five years developing and managing programs for Aboriginal Communities on the South Coast of NSW.

She has extensive Governance experience having represented her community on a range of local, state and national boards and committees including holding the position of Chairperson for Queanbeyan Regional ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission) Council from 2000 to 2003.

In 2007, Iris was instrumental in forming a three-way partnership to implement the Certificate 1 in Aboriginal Languages that was delivered through Moruya Campus.

She is an active member of Djinama Yilaga and has been involved in story and song writing workshops and participating in key performances.

Leah House

Leah House is a Ngambri-Ngunnawal woman who acknowledges her ancestors in the ACT and surrounding regions. Having grown up in her community, Leah draws on her childhood and lived experiences to guide her. Leah began her career helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people access education and strengthen their cultural identities. In 2018, Leah was awarded ACT Public Education Volunteer of the Year for her contribution to Namadgi School and ACT public education.

Journeying into the community legal sector, Leah supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to engage with the legal system and helped women at Alexander Maconochie Centre reintegrate into the community.

As a member of the ACT Domestic Violence Prevention Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reference Group, Leah works closely with the community and government to address domestic and family violence. Now an Aboriginal Victims Liaison Officer at the ACT Human Rights Commission, Leah works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, women and children who have been victims of crimes.

Sasha Croft

Sasha Croft is in secondary school in Sydney where she lives with her family, father Tim, mother Tia, and siblings Luca and Maddie. Through her father’s family Sasha is from the Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra Peoples in the Victoria River region of the Northern Territory. Sasha has travelled to her grandfather Joe’s Country at Kalkaringi and Daguragu and is very proud of her First Nations heritage.

She is a leading scholar at her school and also a rising sportswoman, recently being selected for the NSW Women's Indigenous Team for the 2024 National Indigenous Cricket Championships, held in Mparntwe (Alice Springs). In August 2024 Sasha will travel to Denmark on a Southern Cross exchange program.

Michelle Davison

Michelle Davidson is a Monero-Ngarigo & Walbunga woman with considerable working experience in areas of Indigenous Health and Welfare. She has worked in Women and Youth Refuges, Child and Adult Survivors of Assault, the Aboriginal Medical Service and Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation. She is now helping her son raise her eight grandchildren, since their mother passed away in 2019.

Michelle is a founding member/leader within Djinama Yilaga and is on the Board of DY Inc. She believes DY ‘has been a life saver. It has kept us grounded and definitely helped with our mental health and wellbeing’.

Maria Walker

Maria Walker is a Monero-Ngarigo, Bidwell, Dirringanj & Walbunga Woman. She has worked in many areas in Indigenous Health and Welfare including Nowra Drug and Alcohol Agency, Southeast Women and Children’s Services, Bega, as Community Worker, Wallaga Lake, as a member of the Local Aboriginal Land Council and managing the art gallery at Umbarra.

Maria is a founding member of the Djinama Yilaga since 2019 and is an active participant.

Brenda Gifford

Brenda Gifford is a First Nations, Yuin woman originally from the Wreck Bay area. Her country, community and culture are the basis of her arts practice. She is a contemporary classical composer and creates music for ensembles, orchestras, choirs, dance and theatre performances, and festivals. She works collaboratively and is a classically trained saxophonist and pianist.

Her music has been performed at venues such as the Sydney Opera House and internationally, and is available through ABC Classical & Jazz Music. As a composer and classically trained saxophonist and pianist Brenda has performed solo and with other jazz, classical and rock musicians at a wide variety of Australian and international venues. This includes the Bart Willoughby Band, the Kevin Hunt Trio, Black Arm Band, events and concerts such as the Byron Bay Blues Festival, Enlighten, Yabun and NAIDOC Week events.

In 1980–90, as a saxophonist and member of the band Mixed Relations (Bart Willoughby), Brenda toured extensively through Aboriginal communities, Australian cities and towns, NZ and the Pacific Islands, USA, Europe and Hong Kong.

Original commissioned compositions (recent) include:
2022 – Moriyawa/Whale Melbourne International Jazz Festival / Australian Art Orchestra; Dundun/Firestick, ABC Jazz NAIDOC, Sandy Evans group, ABC Best of Jazz 22 Album; 2021 - ‘Minga Bagan (Mother Earth)’, Cycles Concert, Sydney Chamber Choir, Sydney Festival; Yawa, (Talk)’, developed as part of Brenda’s Ensemble 
Offspring Inaugural First Nations Composer in Residence; 2020 – Djiribawal. including ‘Bagan’, ‘Miriwa’, ‘Ngadjung’ and ‘Ganji’ for the Australian Art Orchestra and the 2021 Canberra International 
Music Festival; ‘Wagan (Crow)’ with Wiradjuri dancer, Joel Bray for the Sydney Dance Company; Sydney Symphony Orchestra 50 Fanfares project; 2019 - ‘Mungala (Clouds)’ performed by Prof. 
Claire Chase, National Sawdust Season, New York, CWP; 2018 – ‘Gamabambarawaraga (Seasons)’ redeveloped with ‘Rompy Stompy Crab,; ‘Plover Bird’, and ‘Ghadu (Sea)’ for Music for the Dreaming album for CD, podcast and concert series, Sydney Opera House withEnsemble Offspring, ABC KIDS Listen and ABC Classic Music. Nominated for an ARIA in 2019; ‘Gamabambarawaraga (Seasons)’ suite for the Canberra International Music Festival. The world premiere performance of the work opened the festival in 2018. The suite includes ‘Bardju (Footprints)’, ‘Galaa (Summer)’; ‘Dhugarwara (Winter)’; ‘Gambambara (Spring)’; ‘Dhawara (Moon)’, which have all been recorded and released as separate pieces. Music residencies and music programs (recent): 2022 - Peggy Glanville Hicks Residency; 2020-21 -Masters in Composition with Professor Liza Lim, Women in Composition Program, Sydney Conservatorium of Music; Ensemble Offspring Inaugural First Nations Composer in Residence. Brenda worked and toured with the ensemble’s virtuosic instrumentalists and is created a new commissioned work to be premiered by Ensemble Offspring in 2021; 2019 - Bundanoon Trust First Peoples Residency, NSW; 2017-18 – Participant, Ngarra-burria: First Peoples Composers program with Christopher Sainsbury, through the Australian National University, Australian Music Centre, Moogahlin Performing Arts and Eora College.