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Vale Laurie Baymarrwangga
The National Australia Day Council was saddened to hear of the passing of Senior Australian of the Year 2012, Laurie Baymarrwangga, aged 98.
Born on the island of Murrungga east of Darwin, Laurie’s lifelong commitment to caring for kin, culture and country saw her almost single-handedly nurture the inter-generational transmission of local ecological knowledge. In 2010, after a struggle stretching back 50 years she was recognised as the traditional owner of her father’s estate. She donated all of her money to improve education and employment opportunities on the island and to establish a 1,000 square kilometre turtle sanctuary on her marine estate.
Earlier this year, Baymarrwangga’s knowledge was instrumental in the publication of the Yan-nhaŋu Atlas and Illustrated Dictionary. Working with anthropologist Dr Bentley James, the extensive cultural and historical resource provides opportunities for new generations to know the language and culture of their ancestors. Speaking to the Koori Mail earlier this year, Laurie described her gift to the Yolngu children with the following:
“As always, we continue to look after our children and our country as is the law. Always watching the children and the country and listening to the winds we follow the knowledge of the ancestors as we care for each other. We want the children to learn these things.”
Laurie was committed to a life of educating others about culture. In life as in death, we take this opportunity to educate all those who read this by clarifying that when an Indigenous Australian passes away, it is inappropriate to use their image or name without consent. We confirm that the NADC have been given the permission, both past and present, to use this image and her name in connection with her award as Senior Australian of the Year. Permission has been extended to anyone else who may wish to use this image and her name in this manner.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Laurie Baymarrwangga.