Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM
Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM is a proud Ngan’giwumirri woman and Elder from Nauiyu in the Daly River region of the Northern Territory. Dr Miriam-Rose is a renowned educator, artist, and public speaker. Dr Miriam-Rose has dedicated her life to improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal children and began this journey when she became a teacher’s aide at St Francis Xavier community school in the Daly River region. In 1975, Dr Miriam-Rose became the Northern Territory’s first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher, and she strongly believes that education is the way forward.
Dr Miriam-Rose went on to work with arts teachers in Victoria at non-Indigenous schools promoting art to children as a form of expression. Dr Miriam-Rose returned home and continued her passion for art and education by working in schools around the Northern Territory. As an art consultant for the Department of Education, she visited schools throughout the Top End, advocating for the inclusion of visual art as part of every child’s education. This incredible advocacy led to major curriculum reforms.
Dr Miriam-Rose continuously pushed for more Aboriginal people to become teachers and trained 7 other Indigenous teachers in her community. Dr Miriam-Rose later became the principal of the Catholic school in her home community of Nauiyu, before being appointed to the Federal Government’s advisory body, the National Indigenous Council.
She has advocated for greater inclusion of Aboriginal culture and art in schools. Her tireless work and advocacy in education was recognised when she became a Member of the Order of Australia in 1998.
In 2013, she established the Miriam Rose Foundation inspired to make a difference after a series of tragic youth suicides in the community, with the last being her nephew. She wanted to provide something that would make the youth feel like they belong and valued in their community. Her foundation supports children in her home town of Nauiyu – a remote Northern Territory community, through providing the four pillars, Education, Opportunity, Art and Culture.
In 1988 Dr Miriam-Rose presented Dadirri to the World. The word, concept and spiritual practice that is dadirri (da-did-ee), from the Ngan’gikurunggurr and Ngen’giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal peoples of the Daly River region . In the words of Aunty, “it is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call "contemplation". When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again. I can sit on the riverbank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness. There is no need of words. A big part of dadirri is listening.”
In 2021 Dr Miriam-Rose’s body of work was recognised when she was named Senior Australian of the Year. She was also chosen as one of 10 everyday Australians to form part of a national delegation, along with the Prime Minister to attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
Through her professional and creative life, Dr Miriam-Rose has remained dedicated to maintaining the cultural independence of her people and being a spokesperson for an Aboriginal worldview. In recognition of her leadership, she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia medal and an Honorary PhD in Education from Charles Darwin University. Recently she was awarded a second honorary doctorate by Australian Catholic University, degree of Doctor of the University.
Dr Miriam-Rose has, fittingly, with her passion for art in education, been a lifelong painter. Her artwork was featured in the published book Australian Stations of the Cross, and her illustrations in famous Australian author Alan Marshall’s book People of the Dreaming. She supported the Elders in her community to establish the successful Merrepen Arts Centre in Nauiyu in 1986 which provided an opportunity and gathering space for Aboriginal artists from the Daly River region. She wanted to help create a space to record the stories of culture and dreaming as she recognised that Aboriginal people traditionally record stories through art and dance.
Dr Miriam-Rose is a respected Elder who has learned to walk in two worlds, and now dedicates her time educating young Aboriginal children to do the same with her unique style of education that combines western knowledge with cultural teaching. She also now educates Australia and the World about Aboriginal culture, spirituality and how we can find reconciliation through deeply listening to each other.