Professor Eleanor Bourke is a Wergaia/Wamba Wamba Elder and is Chair of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission. Professor Bourke has held executive positions in community, state, and federal government agencies. She was a Co-Chair of Reconciliation Victoria for three years, Chair for the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council for twelve years and a Board Member of Native Title Services Victoria. In 2005, Professor Bourke participated in Victoria’s first positive native title determination for the Wotjobaluk, Wergaia, Jardwa, Jardwajarli and Japagulk peoples. Eleanor is my special guest on Big Brekkie 3KND around 8.30am this morning….one not to miss.
Professor Bourke has had an extensive career in academia. She was a Professor of Aboriginal and Islander Studies and Director of Aboriginal Programs at Monash University. She was also previously an Associate Professor and Director of the Aboriginal Research Institute in the University of South Australia. She was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll for Women in 2010 and the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2019.
Professor Bourke has previously provided strategic guidance and advice to the former Victorian Treaty Advancement Commissioner, Jill Gallagher AO, in supporting the establishment of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.
The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission (Yoo-rrook) announced Yoo-rrook on Country, a series of “town hall” meetings which will allow the Commissioners to meet with Traditional Owners and First Peoples across Victoria.
• Yoo-rrook on Country will introduce the Commissioners to Community and build awareness of the historic work Yoo-rrook will conduct - investigating historical and ongoing injustices experienced by First Peoples since colonisation • Commissioners will have the chance to speak with Traditional Owners and First Peoples directly to strengthen ties and raise awareness of Yoo-rrook’s work • Yoo-rrook on Country will take place across regional and metropolitan locations split into five regions: o Northeast Yorta Yorta Country (Shepparton, Echuca and Wodonga) Taungurung Country (Seymour) o Northwest Wemba Wemba/Wamba Wamba Country (Swan Hill) Latji Latji and Ngintait Country (Mildura) Dja Dja Wurrung Country (Bendigo) Wotjobaluk Country (Horsham) o Southwest Wathaurong/Wadawurrung Country (Geelong) Gunditjmara Country (Lake Condah, Portland, Framlingham and Warrnambool) o Southeast GunaiKurnai Country (Lake Tyers and Morwell) o Metropolitan Boonwurrung/Wurundjeri-Woiwurrung Country (Melbourne)
• Additional events and locations will be scheduled – to keep update visit
Born Eleanor Anderson in Hamilton in 1943, Eleanor and her family moved to Murraydale, near Swan Hill in rural Victoria in 1945. She attended primary school at Murraydale: “As the only Aboriginal child I was made very aware of being different”.
Eleanor and her siblings grew up surrounded by a large family of aunties, uncles and cousins. Her grandmother instilled pride in her heritage and culture. Eleanor has been involved in Aboriginal rights and women’s rights since the 1960s: “I was inspired by the older Aboriginal women at the Aborigines Advancement League and I became more aware of the political side of things”.
In 1976, she gained a Diploma of Arts (Journalism) at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Again, Eleanor was the only Aboriginal person in her class. Whilst studying, Eleanor met and married her husband, Colin. She has two daughters, Sia and Kelly, and is stepmother to Christopher, Richard, Annmaree and Matthew.
Eleanor was the Chairperson for the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council (VAHC) from 2006 until 2018. In this role she was a part of the Transition Working Group to 2007 heritage legislation amendments that gave Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) new governance responsibility. She also played a central role in the Documentary Working Group on Ancestral Remains and the Ancestral Remains Joint Steering Group. Eleanor further worked on the Joint Shared Values with Heritage Council Victoria. She also chaired meetings with stakeholder groups associated with the VAHC’s work in Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo and Lorne.
Eleanor has further been involved with and chaired the Right People for Country Steering Committee, co-chaired the initial Winyula joint management committee, and was a Native Title Services Victoria board member.
Eleanor has always believed that education is the key to better understanding and a better life. Her journey has taken her to Harvard University in the United States of America (USA) and the University of British Columbia (Canada).
Due to Eleanor and her husband Colin’s dedication to human rights and education Monash University has named a scholarship in their honour called the Colin and Eleanor Bourke Indigenous Postgraduate Scholarship that supports the ongoing education of Indigenous students undertaking a postgraduate coursework degree.
In 2008, Eleanor was invited to attend the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPCE) in Melbourne where she was recognised for her work in Aboriginal education. In 2010, she was inducted into the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll as a Respected Person and Warrior of Education.
Eleanor has been instrumental in Aboriginal research, human rights and Aboriginal development. She contributed to higher education generally, but especially at the University of Melbourne (late 1970s), the University of Canberra (then the Canberra CAE 1980s), the University of South Australia and Monash University.
Eleanor continues to raise awareness of Aboriginal history including Aboriginal people’s experience of dispossession. She emphasises the importance of recognition of sovereignty and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ rights to respect, identity, and self-determination.
“My goal is to see that recognition of Traditional Owner groups is carried through to all aspects of everyday life, beyond just cultural heritage matters.”