The late Aboriginal elder Banjo Clarke was honoured by having the conference room at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) centre in Warrnambool named after him because he ‘set the tone’ for discussions between the department and community groups.
DHHS western division secretary Paul Smith made the comment at the conference room naming ceremony on Thursday that was attended by more than 60 people including many members of Henry ‘Banjo’ Clarke’s family and other members of the local Aboriginal community.
Mr Smith said the conference room was an important place at the department’s Warrnambool centre because it was where the department held many discussions with Aboriginal and other community groups.
He said Banjo Clarke had been one of the “most significant leaders in the country and the nation” and the department was keen to honour those whose wisdom had set the tone for its conversations with the community.
A large portrait of Mr Clarke, painted by his daughter Fiona and granddaughter Patricia, graces the conference room, along with Mr Clarke’s citation from his induction to the Victorian Aboriginal Roll of Honour.
The citation said Mr Clarke was renowned for his compassion and wise words and had promoted respect and forgiveness between Aborigines and non-Aborigines long before reconciliation had become a concept pursued in dealings with Aborigines.
DHHS Wimmera south-west director Peter Lake said Mr Clarke’s family had nominated him for the honour and the nomination had been endorsed by the Gunditjmara Aboriginal Cooperative.
Marcus Clarke, a grandson of Banjo’s, said his grandfather epitomising many of the qualities of how to live a good life.
Another grandson of Banjo’s, Lee Morgan, thanked DHHS for the honour given to his grandfather.
The naming ceremony was preceded by a smoking ceremony, conducted by another relative of Banjo Clarke’s, Brett Clarke, He said he hoped the smoking ceremony would encourage people to listen to each other and build a future together.