She was involved in everything from smaller community theatre productions to major shows such as “The Rainbow Serpent” - the introduction to Australia’s national exhibit at Brisbane’s World Expo 88, produced in association with one of her sons (Kabul Oodgeroo, then known by the name Vivian Walker) who had co-written the script with her. In 1987, she had changed her name from Kath Walker to Oodgeroo of the Noonuccal tribe (her people of Stradbroke Island or 'Minjerriba', using the island's original Aboriginal name), in protest at the 1988 Australian Bicentenary celebrations surrounding the first British fleet’s arrival and colonization of Australia. In the same year she returned to Queensland’s Governor (and representative of the Queen) the MBE previously awarded, saying that 200 years of carnage, suffering and failure to rectify the damage done to Australia’s original inhabitants was in reality nothing to celebrate from the Aborigine’s perspective. Her more direct involvement in politics included her period as State Secretary of the Queensland Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Significantly, she was active at a time when Aboriginal people were still not included in the census and were not extended most of the privileges and rights long taken for granted by other non-Aboriginal citizens of Australia ... such as the right to vote, finally granted in 1967 after overwhelming approval at a national referendum. (The authoritarian Queensland Governments of the time were also particularly notorious for their intimidation of anyone politically active in seeking such basic rights - especially a person of Aboriginal origin.) In 1974, on one of her trips representing her people overseas, she attended a meeting in Nigeria as a member of the steering committee for the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture. While returning, she fortunately survived a hijacking in Dubai of the airliner on which she was travelling. (During the hijack of this BOAC plane, one passenger was killed.) In her later years, she worked in Sydney with the University of New South Wales on a great labour of love aimed at creating new teaching and educational materials focusing on Australia's history and that of its indigenous peoples and cultures - thereby helping fill a major area of cultural reconciliation and educational need.Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s inherent courage and willingness to speak her mind on all matters of importance and to all comers - including Prime Ministers - constantly broke new ground by throwing out a clear and concise challenge to what was often regarded as unchallengeable or undeserving of action or attention. She was never a captive of the conventional wisdoms of her day, remaining throughout her life a truly independent thinker. Oodgeroo invariably offered the most level headed (and candidly expressed) perspectives on most matters of importance to broadening peoples’ horizons and building greatercommunication,toleranceandunderstanding.[Readmoreonherlife.]- Profile prepared in tribute by Bruce Dickson
ProfileAboriginalactivist,poet,artistandwriter,OodgerooNoonuccal (formerly known as Kath Walker) was born in Queensland in 1920 and died in September 1993, aged 72. Her social, cultural and political contribution was so varied and her influence so broad and lasting that categories such as ‘activist’ and ‘writer’ in reality cannot adequately convey a true sense of her lifetime of achievement on behalf of her people and her country. To the last breath she exhibited a commitment to advancing civil rights, building wider social and cross-cultural understanding and - in the most personal and powerful of ways - facilitating processes that helped foster in everyone (not only the Indigenous peoples of Australia) a greater sense of sharing and caring for the things that really matter in life.In doing so, she encouraged people to do their best and to seek change where change was needed, or wrongs were apparent. However she also advocated never feel disillusioned if such change did not occur overnight. In so many ways Oodgeroo was a truly gifted 'teacher' and educator ... a tireless facilitator and powerful catalyst for personal & communal discovery and social advancement (in effect fulfilling some of the most significant responsibilities and contributions of a 'tribal elder'). However as she so often made clear, she was not setting out to change people, they 'must do that for themselves'. Oodgeroo Noonuccal (then named Kath Walker) left school at the age of 13. During World War II she volunteered for service in the Australian Women's Army Service. It was in the 1960's and 70's that she first became widely known for her vigorous civil rights work on behalf of her people and her best selling poetry.Oodgeroo had become the first Aboriginal poet to see her work published when the book of poems We are Going went into print in 1964. Further publications included Dawn is at Hand(1966), MyPeople(1970),StradbrokeDreamtime(1972) and her illustrated story book for children, Father Sky and Mother Earth (1981). The writing of her children's books was no accident, as she saw all young people as the hope of the future and over the decades generously opened up her island home (‘Moongalba’ on Stradbroke Island - which had come to serve as a cultural and environmental education centre) to visits by literally tens of thousands of kids of every race, creed and background. In the company of others they were able to experience what it meant to live off the land and discover Aboriginal ways, in a predominantly communal not self-centred context. During 1978-1979, on one of several trips and assignments out of Australia, Oodgeroo Noonuccal toured North America as a Fulbright Scholar. She was Poet-in-Residence at Bloomsbury State College. She spoke at a number of other Universities, including the University of California, Berkeley and the Institute of American Indian Arts, New Mexico. In 1983 Oodgeroo was appointed to the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Federal Government’s Australia Council. Her interests and communication channels also extended to art,acting,teaching,theatre,andfilm&documentary(including her role in the making of ‘The Fringe Dwellers’, her segment in the SBS ‘First Australians’ television series and an appearance as herself in ‘Shadow Sister’).