Aunty Edna Brown

A Gunditjmara Elder, Aunty Edna was the driving force behind the Aboriginal funeral fund, supporting the right to a dignified burial for her people.

Honour Roll

Aunty Edna was a much-loved Fitzroy identity who advocated passionately for Aboriginal rights. Despite being a mother to five children and working long hours as a cleaner, Edna opened her doors to countless new arrivals to the city, where a meal and a bed was provided for those in need.

After witnessing an Aboriginal person being buried as a pauper in an unmarked grave in the early 1960s, Edna devoted herself to ensuring that every Aboriginal person would be buried with dignity. She established the Aboriginal Funeral Benefits Fund, the first of its kind in Victoria, by fundraising for dignified funerals. With the support of funeral directors across Victoria, Edna personally handled funeral arrangements on behalf of Aboriginal families.

Edna campaigned strongly to the Victorian Government for a place in Melbourne where Aboriginal people could be buried together. While her request was initially denied, many years later one of Edna's nieces rediscovered a letter Edna wrote to the government and led negotiations that resulted in the establishment of the Weeroona Aboriginal Cemetery at Greenvale in 1992 on Crown land. To this day, the cemetery continues to provide culturally appropriate burials and is a place of spiritual significance to Victoria's Aboriginal community.

In 1973, Edna and her daughter, Alma Thorpe, established the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service. After 25 years of service, Edna's dedication was acknowledged with the opening of the Edna Rose Brown Elders Memorial Healing Garden in 1997.

In 1986, Edna was named NAIDOC Aboriginal of the Year, in recognition of a lifetime devoted to her people. Together with Aunty Iris Lovett Gardiner, in 1987 Edna established the Aboriginal Community Elders Services. Aunty Edna passed away in 2006, having contributed greatly to supporting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of her community.