Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann
Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, 2021 Senior Australian of the year, is a renowned Aboriginal Artist and Educator who is dedicated to creating bright and fulfilling futures for Aboriginal children and youth. She was the first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher in the Northern Territory and is the founder of the Miriam Rose Foundation. Miriam Rose speaks five local languages along with English and is responsible for establishing the highly successful Merrepen Arts centre in Nauiyu.
Miriam Rose, The Early Years
Born in the bush near Daly River, Miriam Rose is a member of the Ngangiwumirr language group. When Miriam Rose was around five years old, she was placed in the care of her Aunt Nellie and Uncle Attawoomba Joe, a legendary police tracker. Miriam Rose subsequently moved with her Aunt and Uncle to live at police stations located in Adelaide River, Pine Creek and Mataranka, where she attended government schools. While maintaining her traditional cultural education to “read the country” she continued learning from the pages of her textbooks.
By the age of 14, Miriam Rose returned home to the Daly River and continued her education at the St Francis Xavier mission school, where she was baptised a Catholic.
Miriam Rose undertook a Teacher Assistants course at Kormilda College in Darwin and became a teacher’s aide at the St Francis Xavier mission school at Daly River. In 1971, passionate about teaching and education, she returned to Kormilda to undertake teacher training. It was during this time that Miriam Rose became keenly interested in painting. In 1974, the Commonwealth Government sponsored a secondment to Victoria, enabling her to work with art teachers in non Indigenous schools where she used art as a means of encouraging children to express themselves.
First Fully Qualified Aboriginal Teacher
In 1975, Miriam Rose returned to Daly River as the Territory’s first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher and for many years held the position of Art Consultant with the Professional Services Branch of the Northern Territory Department of Education. During this time she visited schools throughout the Territory and promoted the inclusion of visual art as a part of every child’s education.
Miriam Rose also saw the need for more Aboriginal teachers to work among non-Aboriginal school children. She became deeply committed to ensuring that Aboriginal people had the opportunity to become qualified teachers and to manage their own schools. She encouraged other women from Daly River to study to become teachers and initiated a very successful remote area, teaching education program. It was during this time that St Francis Xavier school was completely staffed and managed by Aboriginal people.
Miriam Rose continues to advocate that education is a matter for the whole community, and must be adapted to suit contemporary Aboriginal needs.
Merrepen Arts Centre
In 1986, along with other members of the Nauiyu Community, Miriam Rose established the Merrepen Arts Centre which fosters adult education with a strong focus on the visual arts. The highly successful and now nationally recognised arts centre belongs to the Nauiyu community and has over 100 member artists who work with paints, etchings and textiles. Several local artists from the region including Miriam Rose are now recognised both nationally and internationally for their artworks.
Miriam Rose has been acclaimed for her series of paintings, The Australian Stations of the Cross and her illustrations in Alan Marshall’s book “People of the Dreaming”.
In 1988 Miriam Rose was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree by Deakin University and two years later, she began training as a school principal. By 1993 Miriam had gained a Bachelor of Education degree and was appointed to the position of Principal at the St. Francis Xavier School at Daly River. She later went on to gain her Masters of Education Degree, with a high distinction. The focus of work for her Master’s degree was the integration of traditional and western education for Aboriginal children and adults.
Order Of Australia
In 1998, Miriam Rose was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia, for her services to Aboriginal education and art, and her services to the Nauiyu community. In addition to all her work in education and the arts, Miriam was a longstanding member of the local community council and spent many years in the role of President.
Miriam’s Order of Australia was later followed by further acknowledgment when she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Northern Territory University. This was in recognition of her outstanding service and contribution to the Northern Territory in the fields of arts and education.
Australian Senior Of The Year
On January 25, 2021 Miriam was named the Senior Australian of the Year.