Pursuing social justice for First Nations people

24 May 2022

Dr Matilda Williams-House is a long-time member of the ANU community, a Ngambri, Ngunnawal and Wiradjuri Elder who has dedicated her life to the pursuit of social justice for Indigenous people.

One of ten children, she was born and raised on Erambie-Cowra Aboriginal reserve, Hollywood Aboriginal reserve at Yass and Ngambri-Kamberri Country. Dr House has multiple Wiradjuri, Walgalu and Wallabalooa ancestries. Dr House has multiple local First Nation ancestries including Walgalu (Ngambri-Kamberri), Wallabalooa (Ngunnawal) and Wiradjuri.

In the early 1960’s Dr House married and began raising her family of four children on Ngambri Country. In the lead up to the 1967 referendum, Dr House worked hard behind the scenes to ensure the local Canberra community had a voice to help support the yes vote.

In early 1970’s she began working as an Aboriginal liaison/social officer at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra, assisting Aboriginal people with health, education, welfare and employment.

A tireless supporter of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy since its founding in 1972, Dr House helped found the ACT/NSW Aboriginal Legal Service, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council in Queanbeyan in the 1980s.

She had a key role in establishing Winnunga-Nimmitjah Aboriginal Medical Service and The Australian National University's Tjabal Indigenous Higher Education Centre in 1989, which provides support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying at ANU.

In 2006, Dr House was named Canberra Citizen of the Year. On the eve of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in February 2008, she became the first person to perform the Welcome to Country at the 42nd opening of Federal Parliament.

Dr House’s contribution to her community was recognised by ANU with the conferral of the Degree of Doctor of the University in 2017.