Dr Graham Dillon OAM
Uncle Graham Dillon OAM is the lead contributor to the Kombumerri Together Project and drove the vision behind the project model. He is Griffith University’s Elder-in-Residence who continues to provide leadership and direction to the University on issues of importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, encourage and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff, strengthen relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people of the University, facilitate engagement between Indigenous people on a local and global scale, and promote a spirit of reconciliation and respect.
Max’s tribal names are Kupae Girramun Galeen Kombumerri Nunukul. He is a cultural specialist, with expertise in stingless bees and bush medicine. Max sings, dances and plays Mundo (didgeridoo) (yadaki). He is a proud Saltwater person born in Gurang (Southport) and Nunukul, Gorenpul, and Ngugi. Max is also a farmer in the Bunya Mountains. Every three years people gather for the Bunya festival where Max shares his knowledge on healing the land and honouring ancestral ways of growing native crops. Inspired by the inventions of David Unaipon, featured on the Australian $50 note, Max continues to work on farming innovations. His most notable innovation is a revolutionary beehive called the “Bee Bunker”.
Justine is a Kombumerri & Quandamooka woman – she is a Traditional Owner to the beautiful Gold Coast and Moreton Bay area. Currently Justine is the Project Coordinator for Ngarang-Wal Gold Coast Aboriginal Association Incorporated & Guanaba Indigenous Protected Area for the last 5 years, having also served on the Ngarang-Wal Board of Directors in the role of Secretary for 16 years. Prior to this, Justine completed her Bachelor of Education (Primary) at Griffith University and went into local teaching contracts at local primary and high school institutions for 4 years. Leading up to teaching, Justine worked as an Indigenous Education Worker at a local high school whilst completing tertiary studies and managed to maintain constant cultural connections via working & volunteering for Ngarang-Wal G.C.A.A Inc.
Other training in Fire Management, Water Quality Testing & Conservation Landcare Management. Environmental conservation is the main priority for Justine’s current role, however community engagement with Kombumerri culture is another priority in this role, with Justine visiting many local schools and obtaining work for the Aboriginal community (revegetation works and cultural events). At Guanaba IPA she conducts guided visits, manages site and work crews, delivers educational & cultural content, manages planting & weed focused day events & attends to deliver Welcomes at community events for the organisation.
Emerald is a Kombumerri-Noonuccal Traditional Custodian of the Gold Coast and North Stradbroke Island and is the youngest grandchild of Dr Graham Dillon OAM and Marilyn Dillon. Emerald is also a mother of four children aged between 18 months and 11 years and works in Child Safety and lives on country on the Gold Coast with her young family. Emerald has an undergraduate degree majoring in Psychology and is currently completing her Masters in Teaching (Secondary), where she hopes to become a History teacher. Emerald’s passions are in connecting with and educating people about Aboriginal history, community and culture.
Tess Blundell and Madeleine Pugin
Tess and Madeleine are direct descendants and custodians of the traditional Aboriginal people of the Gold Coast area – The Kombumerri Saltwater People. They are committed to ensuring the accuracy of their people’s history, unique language called Ngarangwal, connection to this land, traditions and dreaming are never lost to the burgeoning concrete façade of the Gold Coast.
Tess’s career has been in the public and community service aimed, in the most, at improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, women and men. Tess continues to work in the Gold Coast community, within the Domestic and Family Violence Jurisdiction. She continues to be passionate about truth telling from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and is committed to sharing her voice for the benefit of future generations.
Madeleine has worked on Country as a high school English Teacher but is currently on leave as she pursues a PhD in the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University. Her research is focusing on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, specifically cultural rights, and the struggle of identity and recognition of her people as the Traditional Custodians of their Country.
John Graham (Uncle John) is a Kombumerri man, a member of the wider Yugumbeh Language Group, Traditional Custodians of the Gold Coast Region. He is an Elder on the Griffith Council of Elders and was a Senior Learning Assistance Officer at the GUMURRII Unit, Griffith University, for more than 20 years. He is a mentor with strong links to Community and serves as Cultural Adviser on a variety of Committees and Projects providing guidance, protocols, and advice around culture and Public Policy.
Artist John Graham designed the Kombumerri Together Project logo which represents the Saltwater people’s connection to land, sea, waterways and skies. The red and white sea hawk is known as Ummunjin. The Ummunjin’s behaviour signalled when fishing would be good (see Video Title Significant Totems and Symbols).