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US Ambassador calls in at NLC

Posted: Mon, February 17, 2014

US Ambassador, John Berry (right) and Marine Colonel Matt Puglisi (left), with NLC CEO Joe Morrison and NLC Chairman, Samuel Bush-Blanasi.

The Northern Land Council head office in Mitchell Street, Darwin, was the first port of call for the new United States Ambassador to Australia, Mr John Berry, during his visit to the Top End for services to mark the Bombing of Darwin anniversary.

Mr Berry met the NLC’s chairman, Mr Samuel Bush-Blanasi, and its Chief Executive Offer, Mr Joe Morrison, as well as staff from the NLC secretariat and anthropology branches.

Mr Berry said he greatly respected Australia’s first peoples and sought advice on how best to engage with the Territory’s Aboriginal community.

His father had served in the US 1st Marine Division during WWII in Guadalcanal and Papua New Guinea, and Mr Berry said he had read how Aboriginal people had rescued downed United States airmen during the war.

“Our servicemen would not have got back without their support,” he said.

Ambassador Berry was accompanied to the NLC by Marine Colonel Matt Puglisi, Officer in Charge of the US Marines contingent posted to the Top End.

Colonel Puglisi also wanted to know how his contingent could better engage with Aboriginal communities and expressed interest in setting up a stall at the Barunga Festival on the Queen’s Birthday weekend.

Before he took up his post in September last year, Mr Berry had a distinguished public service career in the US, including senior roles at the Department of the Interior.

In conversation with NLC anthropologist Carol Christophersen, Mr Berry undertook to assist in returning remains of Aboriginal people held in US museums and scientific institutions.  He is well-versed in those processes, having been senior policy advisor at the Smithsonian Institution, which handed back remains of people from Gunbalanya in 2011.

Mr Berry is the first openly gay US Ambassador to service in a G20 nation, and married his long-time partner, Curtis Yee, in August 2013.