2017 Young Environmentalist of the Year

Murrawah Maroochy Johnson

Murrawah comes from Wangan and Jagalingou (W&J) country in Central Queensland, in the region referred to as the Galilee Basin. She is a Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owner and identifies with the Wiirdi-speaking Birragubba peoples. She is a campaigner and spokesperson for the W&J people's Traditional Owners Family Council. Murrawah exemplifies the growing space young leaders occupy and the opportunities that exist when communities back a new generation of leaders.

Murrawah was a part of the inaugural National Indigenous Youth Parliament in 2012, representing Queensland. In that year, she also participated in the Queensland Youth Parliament. After graduating secondary schooling from St Patrick’s College in Townsville, where Murrawah was Vice Captain in her senior year, Murrawah moved to live in Kyoto, Japan where she she did a 10-month exchange. At the time, she had dreams of working for the United Nations or being a spy in the Australian Navy.

Upon returning to Australia, she moved to Brisbane to begin a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Social Sciences, majoring in Public Health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies. It was then that her true path opened for her as she was called to stand in defence of country.

Last year Murrawah took a 12 month break from studies to pursue a traineeship in Campaigning and Community Organising, and worked on the Federal Election. During the year, Murrawah was named as one of the world’s top 50 movers and shakers in the Grist50, after being nominated by renowned international author, filmmaker activist and friend, Naomi Klein.

2016 was a big year for Murrawah. She gave a keynote speech alongside Naomi Klein at the Sydney Peace Prize panel. She spoke alongside the legendary Angela Davis and other strong Black and Indigenous women at the annual ‘Sisters Inside’ event.

Murrawah also participated in the Foundation for Young Australians ‘Young Social Pioneers’ program, where she was announced the winner of her category of Environment, receiving a start-up grant for an initiative of bringing frontline Aboriginal Communities together to share knowledge and experience in campaigning to protect land and our rights as First Nations peoples.

She has returned to her studies this year, and is also working with Queensland University Researchers through the Global Change Institute, under a collaborative project with the Wangan & Jagalingou Council and the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights - “We are the People from that Land: Centring Indigenous Peoples’ rights in the transition to a sustainable, low carbon future”.

While being a full-time university student at the University of Queensland and a vocal young representative for her mob as the youth spokesperson, she has also been selected to be part of the Change Agency’s 2017 Community Organising Fellowship.

Murrawah was recently awarded the Ngara Institute “Activist of the Year” award by noted human rights lawyer, Julian Burnside. The award was given jointly with her Uncle, Adrian Burragubba.







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