We are incredibly excited to share the 2022-2023 co-recipients of the Wisdom Treasure Award!
The Wisdom Treasure Award (WTA) honors the work of an Elder who has dedicated their life to leadership, service, and learning for their people and their community. Elders are the keepers and knowledge-holders of the teachings and sacred ways. They carry the language, ceremonies, traditions – the threads that hold cultures together.
This year, the selection committee was so inspired by the work of Mirian Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, renowned Aboriginal Artist, Educator and member of the Ngangiwumirr language group as well as Bunna Lawrie, a Senior Mirning Elder, Songman, and Activist, that they decided to present the award for lifetime achievement to both. A first in the organization’s history! In 2021, Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation, was the inaugural recipient.
Dr. Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM
Dr Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Baumann AM, 2021 Senior Australian of the year, is a renowned Aboriginal Artist and Educator who is dedicated to creating bright and fulfilling futures for Aboriginal children and youth. She was the first fully qualified Aboriginal teacher in the Northern Territory and is the founder of the Miriam Rose Foundation. Miriam Rose speaks five local languages along with English and is responsible for establishing the highly successful Merrepen Arts centre in Nauiyu.
Born in the bush near Daly River, Miriam Rose is a member of the Ngangiwumirr language group. When Miriam Rose was around five years old, she was placed in the care of her Aunt Nellie and Uncle Attawoomba Joe, a legendary police tracker.
Miriam Rose undertook a Teacher Assistants course at Kormilda College in Darwin and became a teacher’s aide at the St Francis Xavier mission school at Daly River. In 1971, passionate about teaching and education, she returned to Kormilda to undertake teacher training. It was during this time that Miriam Rose became keenly interested in painting.
In 1975, Miriam Rose 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 and promoted the inclusion of visual art as a part of every child’s education.
Miriam Rose also saw the 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. She encouraged other women from Daly River to study to become teachers and initiated a very successful remote area, teaching education program. It was during this time that St Francis Xavier school was completely staffed and managed by Aboriginal people.
Miriam Rose continues to advocate that education is a matter for the whole community, and must be adapted to suit contemporary Aboriginal needs.
In 1986, along with other members of the Nauiyu Community, Miriam Rose established the Merrepen Arts Centre which fosters adult education with a strong focus on the visual arts. The highly successful and now nationally recognised arts centre belongs to the Nauiyu community and has over 100 member artists who work with paints, etchings and textiles.
In 1988 Miriam Rose was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree by Deakin University and two years later, she began training as a school principal. By 1993 Miriam had gained a Bachelor of Education degree and was appointed to the position of Principal at the St. Francis Xavier School at Daly River. She later went on to gain her Masters of Education Degree, with a high distinction. The focus of work for her Master’s 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 her services to the Nauiyu community.
Miriam’s Order of Australia was later followed by further acknowledgment when she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Northern Territory University. This was in recognition of her outstanding service and contribution to the Northern Territory in the fields of arts and education.
On January 25, 2021 Miriam was named the Senior Australian of the Year.
Marbanu Ngumbunna (Bunna) Lawrie
Bunna is a Senior Elder of the Mirning People of the coastal country of the Billiaum Mocalba, the Great Australian Bight. He carries one of the World’s oldest lineages, which has continued since the Dhoogoor, Dreamtime and through over 3,000 generations. Bunna has dedicated his life to community, culture and country; taking great strength from the spiritual tradition of his ancestors. Beyond the Mirning, he has been recognised and honoured as one of Australia’s leading indigenous musicians, as an advocate for culture and for his work protecting the environment.
Born in 1950, he was raised in South Australia on the mission by a close family who secretly passed on the oral stories, traditions and language of his ancestors. His musical gifts lead to him establishing the multi-award-winning group Coloured Stone and then, in his 40s, he was recognised by his Elders as the Whale Songman of the Mirning People. For thirty years Bunna has been his People’s spokesman and has fought to have traditional ‘native title’ acknowledged.
He has travelled nearly every backroad of Australia sharing and healing through music, knowledge and wisdom. He has also supported in ritual and ceremony the continuity of many whale totem peoples. Bunna’s Mirning family are the Whale Dreamers of the World’s greatest whale nursery and sanctuary, which he tirelessly works to protect.
Bunna is dedicated to passing down knowledge and teaching younger generations the traditional language, knowledge, wisdom and culture to preserve and protect sea and country. In respect of the totems, he works to keep the connection and relationship alive. By preserving and sharing his wisdom with Mirning children and others, he teaches for future generations to come. They can then learn and carry the ancient laws, customs, traditions and protocols that have kept country so pristine.
Bunna has been a mentor, Elder and inspiration for many in Australia and internationally. He has devoted his life to following the ways of his ancestors and teaching from the word Mirning, which means “listen, learn, understand and observe and then you will have wisdom and knowledge.”
The Wisdom Treasure Award ceremony will be held in February 2023 at the International Funders for Indigenous Peoples (IFIP) conference in Merida, Mexico. The ceremony will take place on February 22, 2023 during the opening evening dinner. Both Dr. Rose and Mr. Lawrie are expected to attend.
Previously, Seeds of Wisdom has partnered with IFIP to host the WTA during their conferences. This collaboration will highlight the important work these Elders are doing in their communities in order to bring more resources and funding on an international level.
A ceremony will be held November 18 from 2 to 3 pm in Adelaide, Australia. The ceremony will be hosted by Government House. Mirning dance and music will be shared as well as a welcome by the Governor and the awards presentation.
We’d like to take this opportunity to extend our deepest gratitude to the selection committee for their time and thoughtful consideration. Thank you!
Please join us in celebrating the lives and work of Miriam Rose and Bunna Lawrie who are planting the seeds for the generations to come.