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12 July 2020 // Edna Brown
Edna Rose Brown (1916 – 2006) Born into the Gunditjmara Nation in 1916, Edna was raised by her parents George Clarke and Mary-Anne (née Lovett McClennan) on the Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve. The family, including Edna's 4 siblings, subsisted largely on what the land provided. Edna would fetch drinking water from the river and walk 2 miles to school in Purnim, often in the freezing cold.
In 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, 15-year-old Edna and her father left Framlingham. In those days, government policy aimed to assimilate Aboriginal people of mixed descent into non-Aboriginal society. Edna and her father came to Fitzroy, an impoverished suburb at the time, where many displaced Aboriginal people gathered. It was to be Edna's home for life. She married James Brown in 1934 and had 4 children. She also raised her sister's daughter as her own.
Outspoken and honest, Edna was a much-loved figure in the Victorian Community and a vocal supporter of Aboriginal rights, from the campaign that brought success at the 1967 referendum to the subsequent push for Aboriginal self-determination.
As Aboriginal people increasingly took charge of their own interests, Edna's ability to unite people came to the fore.
She was the driving force behind the Aboriginal Funeral Benefits Fun, Victoria's first Aboriginal funeral fund, believing in the right to a dignified burial for her people.
In 1973, Edna and her daughter Alma Thorpe, helped establish the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS). From the beginning, when she laboured to prepare its derelict first home, Edna was integral to the running of the organisation. She volunteered her time as cleaner and patient liaison, always on hand with a pot of tea and some insightful words of advice. Edna was a fixture at VAHS for more than 25 years and her contribution was acknowledged with the opening of the Edna Rose Brown Elders Memorial Healing Garden in 1997.
In 1986, Edna was named NAIDOC Aboriginal of the Year, in recognition of a lifetime devoted to her people. She went on to help Iris Lovett-Gardiner establish Aboriginal Community Elders Services in 1987. She travelled Australia and remained politically engaged, attending the bicentennial protests in 1988.
A strong matriarch with a deep legacy embodied by the generations following, Edna passed away in 2006, having given so much to so many. (source)