Aboriginal elder who was told she was ‘being too difficult’ by the organisers of Obama’s tour gets an apology after she was dumped from Welcome to Country
- Wurundjeri Elder Joy Murphy, 78, axed from event
- She was due to perform Welcome to Country for Obama
- Organisers have since apologised
An Aboriginal elder who was dumped from giving a Welcome to Country at Barack Obama’s highly anticipated speech in Melbourne has received an apology from event organisers.
Wurundjeri Elder Joy Murphy, 78, was set to perform the welcome ceremony for the ex-US President’s speech in Melbourne on Thursday night.
Ahead of the event, she asked organisers if she could bring a support person and a cultural gift for Mr Obama.
However, the shocked elder says she was then told she was being ‘too difficult’ by the organisers, the Growth Faculty, who axed her from the event.
Growth Faculty have since apologised to Aunty Joy.
‘Growth Faculty has apologised to Aunty Joy that last night’s ceremony could not be changed,’ the organisers said in a statement on Thursday morning.
‘Aunty Joy has accepted Growth Faculty’s invitation to perform Welcome to Country at a business lunch taking place in Melbourne today
‘Due to security requirements, the organisation was unable to accommodate last-minute changes to the agreed upon ceremony [on Wednesday].’
Wurundjeri Elder Joy Murphy, 78, was set to perform the Welcome to Country ceremony for Barack Obama’s event
The row comes as Mr Obama and his wife Michelle arrived in Melbourne by private jet, with the couple sipping coffees as they climbed into their motorcade.
In a statement at the time, Aunty Joy said she had never been ‘treated or spoken to in this way’.
‘I have been shocked and distressed by the way I have been treated by event organisers,’ she said.
‘I am 78 years of age. I have never been treated or spoken to in this way in the past.
The row comes as Mr Obama and his wife Michelle arrived in Melbourne by private jet
‘I do not want this to be a reflection on President Obama. I am a leader of the Wurundjeri Nation. I asked to be treated as an equal.’
The Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Cultural Heritage Corporation also slammed the organisers and described their actions as ‘a deep offence to the Wurundjeri people and to all First Nations people’.
‘Welcome to Country protocols are our traditional law and practice that have been used to welcome and offer protection to our guests on Wurundjeri lands for millennia,’ a statement said.
‘Aunty Joy Murphy has welcomed dignitaries of the highest level to Wurundjeri Country, including the Queen, Nelson Mandela, and the Dalai Lama.’
‘She has had the honour and the responsibility as the senior Aboriginal elder of the Wurundjeri people to welcome people to our country for over 40 years.’
The ex-US President sat down with former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop in Sydney on Tuesday. A further 10,000 people are expected at his Melbourne event on Wednesday
The Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung Cultural Heritage Corporation described the incident as ‘a deep offence to the Wurundjeri people and to all First Nations people’
Former US President Barack Obama (centre) waves to onlookers after leaving the Bathers Pavilion in Balmoral, Sydney
Wednesday’s speech is Mr Obama’s second in the country, after he addressed a sell-out crowd in Sydney on Tuesday night.
Those who wished to hear Obama speak had to dig deep into their pockets for a ticket, with a standard entry coming in at just under $200.
The event’s ‘platinum package’, which cost $895, featured a welcome cocktail at a one-hour drinks function, commemorative lanyard and signed copy of Mr Obama’s memoir A Promised Land.
With a further 10,500 to see Mr Obama talk at Wednesday’s Melbourne event, he could be up for a payday upwards of $1million.
Inside Barack Obama’s tour of Australia for paid speeches
Sunday night: Barack and Michelle Obama touch down in Sydney ahead of his speaking tour
Monday: The former US president was greeted by John F. Kennedy’s daughter and US ambassador Caroline Kennedy at the Four Seasons
He then met with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Kirribilli House
Mr Obama later went for a walk along the cliffs at North Head, near Manly – as more than a dozen police cars and a dozen police motorbikes waited by the road nearby.
He then attended a lunch at the Bathers Pavillion restaurant at Balmoral with Ms Kennedy – a witness saying he was dining in a room where the curtains were closed to the outside world
Mr and Mrs Obama were later snapped at the Sydney Opera House on Monday evening
Tuesday: Mr Obama was seen enjoying an afternoon coffee while his wife took to Mosman Bay in a yacht, cruising around the harbour for about an hour
He later spoke to a crowd at the Aware Super Theatre on Tuesday night for ‘An Evening with President Obama’, where tickets start from $195
There he spoke of tensions with China, and in Russia, artificial intelligence and his thoughts on Sydney
Wednesday: Mr Obama and his wife enjoyed a walk over Sydney Harbour Bridge with their entourage
He will fly to Melbourne to speak at an event on Wednesday night