Each year, the Australian of the Year Awards recognise Australians who have made a significant impact on the lives of others. Now the 2022 recipients have been announced, Catholic Outlook looks back at last year’s recipient of Senior Australian of the Year 2021, Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM.
Miriam-Rose is a Catholic Aboriginal elder, activist, educator and artist from Daly River in the Northern Territory. She has committed her life to maintaining the cultural independence of her people and to bridging the divide between Aboriginal culture and mainstream society, particularly through education.
In 1975, she became the first fully-qualified Aboriginal teacher, and later became the principal of her local community’s Catholic school.
Specialising in visual arts, Miriam-Rose visited schools throughout the Northern Territory as art consultant for the Department of Education, advocating for visual arts to be included in the education of each child. She also served on the National Indigenous Council, an advisory body to the Federal Government. In her efforts to reconcile inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, she established the Miriam Rose Foundation in 2015. Her incredible advocacy was recognised with a Member of the Order of Australia medal, and an Honorary PhD in Education from Charles Darwin University.
Throughout 2021, Miriam-Rose shared her deep wisdom and spirituality at several Church events, including the Catholic Mission Conference and the second Convocation of the Australasian Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. In her keynote presentation at the Catholic Mission Conference, Miriam-Rose spoke of the quality of Dadirri, or interior, deep listening and quiet still awareness, describing it as the greatest gift we can give to another person, the “gift that Australia is thirsting for.” Her sharing has resonated with many in offering a new way of seeing, an opportunity for meaningful connection with the depth of Aboriginal culture, and the beautiful connection between Aboriginal spirituality and Catholic values.
Video credit: National Australia Day Council.