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Indigenous elder dumped from Obama event for being ‘too difficult’

Barack Obama arrives in Melbourne

An Indigenous elder is “shocked and distressed” after being dumped from former US president Barack Obama’s sold-out event in Melbourne.

Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin AO, a Wurundjeri elder, said she was told she was being “too difficult” and prevented from performing a Welcome to Country on Wednesday night.

She said she was also banned from giving traditional cultural protocols at a business lunch on Thursday.

In a statement, the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation said Aunty Joy had asked organisers to “make appropriate accommodations for a support person” to accompany her to the event.

Aunty Joy had also asked if she could provide Mr Obama with a gift “as is cultural practice”.

“She was told that she was being ‘too difficult’ and was removed from event proceedings,” the corporation said.

“This is a deep offence to the Wurundjeri people and to all First Nations people.

“Our Welcome to Country protocols are our traditional law and practice that have been used to welcome and offer protection to our guests on Wurundjeri lands for millennia.”

Aunty Joy regularly performs Welcome to Country and has previously welcomed both Nelson Mandela and the Queen to Wurundjeri land.

Aunty Joy said she did not blame Mr Obama but pointed the finger at the organisers of the event, Growth Faculty.

Growth Faculty has not responded.

“I have been shocked and distressed by the way I have been treated by event organisers,” Aunty Joy said in a statement.

“I am 78 years of age. I have never been treated or spoken to in this way in the past.”

“I do not want this to be a reflection on President Obama. I am a leader of the Wurundjeri Nation. I asked to be treated as an equal.”

Mr Obama’s event at Melbourne’s John Cain arena drew a crowd of about 10,500 people on Wednesday night.

Since landing in Australia on Sunday for his speaking tour, Mr Obama has has met Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and taken a sandy stroll in Manly with ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

Mr Obama spoke in Sydney and Melbourne alongside former foreign minister and ANU chancellor Julie Bishop, who moderated the discussion on leadership and global politics.

-with AAP

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