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Aboriginal Australian artist, activist, and educator, Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann (b. 1950), was in kinship care as a child. 

Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann was born in the bush near Daly River, a small town in the Northern Territory. 

When she was five years old, Miriam was given over to be cared for by her relatives, Aunt Nellie and Uncle Attawoomba Joe. Attawoomba Joe was a notable police tracker, and Miriam moved between police stations with him and Nellie. The child learned much from her uncle about Aboriginal culture, while also being educated formally in government schools. 

Miriam’s early schooling ended after primary school when she began doing domestic work for a school teacher in the Daly River area. Caught reading one day by the teacher, the teacher insisted that Miriam become an assistant in the classroom. 

And that’s where everything started. An assistant teacher’s course, a bridging course and a degree from Deakin University followed. In 1975, she returned to Daly River as the Territory’s first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher (Henningham). 

Ungunmerr-Baumann went on to earn a Bachelor of Education (1993) and a Masters of Education (1999). She was the first fully-qualified Aboriginal Australian teacher in the North Territory and became principal of St Francis Xavier school in 1993. 

Ungunmerr-Baumann is also a renowned artist who used art in the classroom as a means for children to be expressive.  

Her skills in this area led to her being employed by the Curriculum and Research Centre in Darwin as an advisory teacher of art in 1977 and a Commonwealth Government secondment to Victoria to enable her to work with art teachers in that state (Henningham). 

Miriam Ungunmerr-Baumann has dedicated her life to serving communities in the Northern Territory.

She has helped establish Aboriginal women’s resource centres and served as the President of the Nauiya Community Government Council in Daly River. In 1986, Ungunmerr-Baumann worked with other members of the Nauiyu Community to form the Merrepen Arts Centre for adult education. The Miriam Rose Foundation provides arts and education programs that “not only benefit children and youth but help create a more cohesive community with positive interactions from within.”

Ungunmerr-Baumann has been recognised for her achievements with many awards. In 1998, she was made a Member of the Order of Australia and four years later was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Education. Miriam was named Barnardos Mother of the Year NT in 2017, and Senior Australian of the year in 2021.

According to her friend, Leslie Gordon, Ungunmerr-Baumann has one son and two grandchildren but she is like a mother to many others in the community and from schools all over Australia.”

As Ungunmerr-Baumann summarises:

It’s the community and the children in the community that has made me who I am.


Henningham, Nikki. “Ungunmerr-Baumann, Miriam Rose (1950-).” The encyclopedia of Women & Leadership in twentieth-century Australia. 

“Miriam Rose Foundation.”

Roberts, Lauren. “Miriam’s our amazing mum of the year. NT News, 22 April 2017.  

Image available here