Wiradjuri Elder Aunty Florence Grant was awarded an Order of the Companion late last month for her leadership in Indigenous culture at the Charles Sturt University in Bathurst.
Aunty Flo has devoted her life to building a committed relationship between the Wiradjuri nation and the Charles Sturt University (CSU), notably known for her contribution to CSU’s Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language.
The Vice-Chancellor of CSU Professor Andrew Vann surprised Aunty Flo with the award, that now hangs from the wall of her nursing home in central Wagga Wagga.
“I was just so blown away by it because I thought I was going to a ceremony for my brother Stan and Dr John… now they’re the real language gurus,” Aunty Flo told NITV News.
“I said [when I received the award] that I’ve done nothing, if it wasn’t for (Uncle Stan and Dr John) we probably wouldn’t have this today.”
Aunty Flo worked alongside her brother Uncle Stan Grant and Dr John Rudder to create the first Wiradjuri dictionary in 2005.
Since then, Uncle Stan and Mr Rudder have completed two Wiradjuri dictionaries and written a Wiradjuri grammar book.
Without their work on revitalising the language, teaching Wiradjuri language and culture in schools wouldn’t have been possible today, said Aunty Flo.
Prof Vann said awards like these would often be granted at graduation ceremonies, but Aunty Flo was deserving of a special event designed just for her in the comfort of her own home.
During her time as Chair of the Wiradjuri Council of Elders, Aunty Flo helped the university to understand the Wiradjuri culture and to ensure the First Nations heritage was embedded into every course at CSU.
"She's been there to guide and make sure everything's done right and that we work with the Wiradjuri respectfully and that we do the right thing," Prof Vann said.
Prof Vann said Aunty Flo was one of the most "amazing human beings" he had ever met.
“She’s an incredible woman, she’s had an incredible life and she has an incredible drive to support the growth of her culture,” he said.
“She’s always thinking about how the university can help to support Wiradjuri language and culture.”
Born on a mission in Condobolin, central-west NSW, Aunty Flo later travelled Australia and New Zealand and by her 30s had saved enough money from working as an assistant nurse to travel the United States and Canada, followed by a trip across Europe.
“I wondered around the world but I took who I am with me,” she said.
Returning home after a nine-month trip, Aunty Flo started working with the Office for the Department of Social Security as an Aboriginal information officer in 1990.
Now retired, Aunty Flo said she has had a life filled with blessings.