Miriam Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann was born in the bush near Daly River
in 1950. While Miriam Rose is a member of the Ngangiwumirr language
group she also speaks four other local languages.
When Miriam Rose was about 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 at Adelaide River, Pine Creek and Mataranka,
where she attended government schools. While maintaining her traditional
cultural education, Miriam Rose learned to "read the country" as
well as the pages of her text books.
When she was aged about fourteen, Miriam Rose returned to Daly
River and continued her education at the mission school. In 1965,
Miriam Rose was baptised a Catholic.
In 1968, Miriam Rose undertook a Teaching Assistants course at
Kormilda College in Darwin, and subsequently became a teacher's
aide at the St. Francis Xavier mission school at Daly River. She
returned to Kormilda for further study in 1971. It was during this
time that she became keenly interested in painting.
Miriam Rose developed a unique imagery characterised in her acclaimed
series of paintings, Australian Stations of the Cross. Early recognition
of her work was also given when she was asked to illustrate Alan
Marshall's book "People of the Dreaming".
As Miriam Rose's interest in painting grew, she used art increasingly
as a means of encouraging children to express themselves. In 1974,
the Commonwealth Government sponsored a secondment to Victoria,
enabling her to work with art teachers in schools.
In 1975, Miriam Rose again 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 thus gaining the opportunity
to advance her commitment to the inclusion of visual art as a part
of every child's education.
On her return to the Daly River School in 1982, Miriam Rose was
convinced that there was a 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. Miriam Rose
continues to advocate that education is a matter for the whole community,
and must be adapted to suit contemporary Aboriginal needs. She has
shown great leadership and perseverance in meeting these objectives.
For example, she encouraged other women from Daly River to study
to become teachers and she initiated a very successful remote area,
teaching education program. St. Francis Xavier School is now completely
staffed and managed by Aboriginal people. Her commitment to the
community is demonstrated by her role in creating the Merrepin Arts
Centre, which fosters adult education with a focus on the visual
In 1988 Miriam Rose was awarded the degree of Bachelor of Arts
by Deakin University, through Batchelor College. Two years later,
she began training as a school principal, and in 1993 was appointed
to the position of Principal at the St. Francis Xavier School at
Miriam Rose was awarded a Bachelor of Education degree in 1993
by Deakin University, and in 1999 gained her Master of Education
Degree, with High Distinction. The focus of her work for this degree
was the integration of traditional and western education for Aboriginal
children and adults.
In 1998, Miriam Rose was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia,
for her services to Aboriginal education and art, and for services
to the Nauiyu community having been for many years a member of the
local community council, often in the role of President.
In recognition of her outstanding service and contribution to the
Northern Territory, in acknowledgment of her leadership and example
in the fields of Aboriginal education and the visual arts, and for
her contribution to the general community Miriam Rose was awarded
an honorary doctorate from Northern Territory University.
In 2004, Miriam Rose was appointed to the National Indigenous Council,
the Federal Government's advisory body that replaced ATSIC.