Charmaine Clarke

Charmaine Clarke, Member for the South West region

Proud Gunditjmara

South-West Member Charmaine Clarke’s first Assembly Chamber was on April 1 this year.

Aunty Charmaine replaced Sissy Austin as one of the South-West region’s elected representatives after Ms Austin’s resignation. Ms Austin’s place as a Member on the inaugural Assembly is written into history and her contribution will always be remembered.

Aunty Charmaine is a proud Gunditjmara woman with strong ties to her region. She was elected after a recount of votes in the 2019 election.

A member of the Stolen Generations, she grew up in Ballarat orphanages along with her five siblings.

At the age of 18, with help from the Ballarat Aboriginal community she became the first Aboriginal Site Officer for the South-West.

She went about the work of recording and protecting cultural heritage sites, mentored by many Elders throughout the state and is now a lecturer at Federation University in the Graduate Certificate in Community Services, teaching Aboriginal students from around Victoria, and also contributes to our understanding of Aboriginal Family Violence as a researcher in the South-West.

“My biggest influence, however, is my mother (Eliza Saunders), who I spent many hours walking Country with and listening to her speak of our history, our culture and our responsibilities,” Aunty Charmaine says.

“It was that responsibility I took with me when I called for a Treaty in my campaign for the Senate in 1998. “I have worked for over 32 years in many areas, including State and Federal cultural heritage protection, environmental and social policy development, justice, mental health and family violence.”

As a Co-Chair of the Interim Elders’ Voice with Uncle Andrew Gardiner, Aunty Charmaine has played a key role helping to develop the permanent Elders’ Voice.

That work will help ensure the Assembly has the cultural guidance it will need to go forward with its important tasks.

“I am honoured to be an Assembly representative for the South-West and I look forward to continuing the work of building a strong Treaty framework, so that communities can be empowered to implement their own Treaty negotiations at the grass roots level.”

Inaugural speech