Senior Australian of the Year Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann calls people to a deep, attentive listening to the other and to creation, writes Fr Frank Brennan SJ. Source: Australian Jesuits.
Miriam-Rose has been a friend to Australian Jesuits for many years. In 1986, 12 of us travelled in two minibuses from Sevenhill to Alice Springs where Pope John Paul II was meeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who gathered at the Centre from all over Australia. We then travelled on to Nauiyu Nambiyu at Daly River to celebrate the centenary of the establishment of the first Jesuit mission there at Uniya by the Austrian Jesuits in 1886.
We were welcomed by Miriam, who at the time was President of the local Aboriginal council. She shared with us part of her story, the story of her people.
She told us: “Today, I see my people caught in what I feel is a terrible whirlwind, tossed and trapped in a circle of confusion, frustration, often despair, unable to escape. I myself have been thrown about by that whirlwind. I have felt the confusion, the fear, the helplessness. Yet, in some strange and wonderful way, God is by degrees and ever so gently, lifting me out of the whirlwind.”
Accepting the Senior Australian of the Year award this year, Miriam said: “We learnt to speak your English fluently, walked on a one-way street to learn the white people’s way. Now is the time to come closer to understand us and to understand how we live and to listen to what needs are in our communities.”
She has continued to call us all to a deep, attentive listening to the other and to creation. Her term for this is “dadirri”.
The nation needs to heed her gentle, deep message.
Congratulations to Dr Miriam-Rose, Senior Australian of the Year (Australian Jesuits)