The Fraser Coast Chronicle’s major win in the 2008 United Nations Association Media Peace Awards turned into the triumph of the evening.

The packed room at Melbourne’s Arts Centre burst into spontaneous and prolonged applause, even with cheers, when ABC TV’s Kerry O’Brien announced the Fraser Coast Chronicle, the Butchulla people and the sponsors of the paper’s weekly series “Let’s Learn Butchulla: Hands in Time, Journeying Together” had won the Promotion of Aboriginal Reconciliation award.

Chronicle Editor Nancy Aates ABC's Kerry O'Brien and Toni McraeThe announcement was left for the penultimate of the night.

Mr O’Brien said the judges had described the winning series as a remarkable and illuminating presentation, a fantastic effort that promoted reconciliation by engaging local schools and that offered understanding of indigenous people as well as a celebration of pride of place of the Butchulla of the Fraser Coast.

Chronicle editor Nancy Bates made a moving acceptance speech, thanking the Butchulla, especially Frances Gala, Shawn Wondunna-Foley and Joyce Bonner, and the series’ sponsors, Phil Murphy of Oxmar Properties, the Hervey Bay RSL and Zonta Hervey Bay.

“We aimed to encourage our citizens to extend the pride they have in the Fraser Coast to include their Butchulla heritage,” Ms Bates said.

“We are thrilled with the way people have responded in learning about the language, legends and customs of the first people who lived on the Fraser Coast.

“This award means the Fraser Coast has started something special.”

When Ms Bates read out a letter from Butchulla elders Joyce Smith and Frances Gala, some in the audience cried. The elders had written the letter in case the Chronicle did win the award.

“Thank you for bringing us respect. Thank you for making us exist,” they wrote.

Mr O’Brien said from the stage that he and Chronicle features editor Toni McRae, who worked on the series and who attended the awards with Ms Bates, had worked together in Sydney 38 years ago.

“I work in Sydney and Toni now works on the Fraser Coast. Who’s the smarter?”

Ms Bates said Ms McRae had pulled the Let’s Learn Butchulla project together with passion, professionalism and energy. “She should be the one up here receiving this award.”

Mr O’Brien later told Ms Bates and Ms McRae that his mother, Lotta Gordon, had been born in Maryborough and that the family was directly descended from Maryborough pioneer John Eaton.

“Now I absolutely must come and visit,” he said.

Two of the judges – Melbourne barrister John Gibson who specialises in refugee work, and Joseph Caputo, commissioner of the Victorian Multicultural Commission – especially congratulated Ms Bates on the Chronicle’s effort.

“It blew us away,” Mr Gibson said.

“We were very moved,” Mr Caputo added.

Read the News Article: Prestigious UN award for Chronicle series