Since forming in 1973, many people and organisations have helped Congress advocate strongly for justice and equity, and provide comprehensive, culturally appropriate health services for Aboriginal people in central Australia. The Congress History Project – Congress Arrurlenge (meaning Congress from a long time ago) will help ensure these contributions are preserved, recognised and respected by making the history more accessible to the Congress community and stakeholders.

Congress Arrurlenge works closely with Arrurlenge Arntanta-areme (ARRA) a group of Congress Aboriginal staff who provide the project team with advice for cultural safety. The group’s name reflects this role: it means ‘watching over’ or ‘looking after’. We are excited to be getting this information together so we can learn from the past to be strong for the future.

The project team has started collating, gathering information and digitising historical documents, photographs and videos. Over the next 18-months this work will expand the stories of Congress history on the website.

Team members recently met with artist Thea Perkins, granddaughter of Charlie Kumantjaye Perkins and niece of Neville Perkins who was a big force in starting up Congress. Thea, winner of the 2020 Alice Prize and Australian Council’s First Nations Emerging Artists Award 2020, is currently running workshops in town camps to produce banners about current issues. She was interested in photos of banners in street marches from the old days in the hope that history can provide some inspiration for new banners.

The project will run until June 2022 in the lead up to Congress’ 50 year anniversary in June 2023.

There are currently changes to Congress town clinic open hours.