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Monday, 27 September 1993
Page: 1151

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia) —I would like to associate the members of the National Party in the Senate with the condolence motion moved by the government. Oodgeroo was a talented writer, poet, artist and educator who made a significant contribution to Australian life, culturally and educationally. In 1964 Oodgeroo was the first Aboriginal poet to have a book of verse published, which quickly became a best-seller, and her reputation as a poet of note was established. She was a prolific writer. She followed up her initial success with The Dawn is at Hand in 1966; My People in 1970; Stradbroke Dreamtime in 1972; and Father Sky and Mother Earth also in 1972.

  Oodgeroo was born in Brisbane in 1920. She had a tough childhood growing up during the Depression. She was one of seven children in a very poor family. She worked hard at school, consistently topping her year in English. Her education was cut short at the age of 13 when she was sent out to work as a domestic servant. She continued to educate herself through her love of literature. She served in the Australian Women's Army in Brisbane during the early part of the Second World War.

  During the 1960s she became involved with the government community in adult education. She delivered lectures at universities both in Australia and overseas on Australian literature and Aboriginal culture. She was also deeply involved with the 1967 referendum campaign to allow Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders the right to be included on the census and consequently to have the right to vote.

  In the 1970s Oodgeroo became the managing director of the Noonuccal-Nughie Education Cultural Centre on Stradbroke Island as well as establishing the Moongalba Centre where she lectured to thousands of Australians, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, on Aboriginal life, culture and history. During her full life she was an unceasing advocate for the rights and advancement of her people. However, she never preached the politics of separatism. She wanted a peaceful Australia with a fair go for everyone, black and white alike.   Oodgeroo enriched this nation during her life with her drive to bring Aboriginal culture and history into the mainstream of Australian education. Even after her death, her lyrical poetry will live on as an essential facet of Australian literature. I am sure all honourable senators will join with me in supporting this condolence motion for Oodgeroo.