Alice Pepper, Member for the South East region
Proud Yorta Yorta, Mutti Mutti, Arrernte, Gunnai, Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung
Alice Pepper is an artist who looks through the obvious, past the foreground into the background, into the depth of the picture and she’s not always pleased with what she sees.
“I stood for the Assembly to be part of the Treaty process and use this opportunity to help protect our culture and our land, because if we don’t, we get sick,” she says.
“We need to amplify our voices so we are heard and so a system that so clearly hasn’t respected our connection to Country or needs can be changed.”
“In my first speech to the first Assembly Chamber I said, ‘It is most important for us to be able to address these through this journey to Treaty so that our future generations can stand strong on Country, living their culture, living healthy and longer, and aspiring to be who they want to be’ and for me that will be the real measure of our success as time goes by.”
Mrs Pepper says the first term of the Assembly has not only been difficult for her because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of the loss of beloved family members and sorry business within the community.
“It wasn’t just that often we haven’t been able to meet in-person for the Assembly’s work, we also lost precious time with the people most dear to us and that’s a loss that can’t be filled,” she explains.
“We’ve persevered with the Assembly work, though, and have achieved a lot considering the circumstances.”
As an artist, Mrs Pepper has contributed to the revival of the craft of creating possum skin cloaks, which hold a significance in Aboriginal culture beyond just being a piece of clothing. She sees the possum skin cloak as a metaphor for the Assembly and its work for Aboriginal people.
“A skin would be given to children when they were born and, as they grew, it would be added to with images, which helped tell the story of their life,” she says.
“The Assembly is something like a cloak. It’s at the birth of this Treaty process and the work it does on the framework, Treaty Authority and Self Determination Fund will help protect our groups as they negotiate Treaties.”