The Matriarchs

Aboriginal people are respectfully asked to note that names and photographs of people who have passed away, are included in this blog.

International Women’s Day 2016 focuses debate on a #PledgeForParity. The official website’s estimate for achieving it is 2133, more than a hundred years from now. It is devastating that the wait could be so long. My family’s Aboriginal matriarchs battle parity that is even more fundamental than gender – parity of humanity. On almost any statistic that is measured – education, health, unemployment, mortality, violence, incarceration.

The spotlight rarely finds these beautiful women. Their wisdom drifts softly on the tides that rise and fall on the shores of their homelands in remote northern Australia. Despite the deep injustice of their times, they live life with astonishing happiness and purpose. Catastrophic loss and deprivation have not diminished the human connections that define their world. Nor the resilience they have built from culture and language. From the spiritual, the esoteric and the ancestral, they bring a powerful philosophy of integrity and inclusion. Their words bind us all on International Women’s Day, regardless of country, race and the cards life deals.

On purpose…

Anyngkarrinjarra ki-awarawu

Listening in a quiet place lets me see

When I am still, and the quiet washes over my spirit, then I can hear. When I find a calm place in my mind, I can see where to go.


On belonging…


I belong to a place in the minds of my ancestors

My life fulfils the imagination of the generations who came before me, and whose spirit I carry forward. They prepared a special place for me, through their hope, dreams and love.


On giving…


Generosity and understanding my obligation are the same

Generosity is a given: it is not a special thing, it is only what is expected of me


On meaning…


My inner spirit is my substance in the world

My inner spirit holds the unique beauty and meaning of my being. It is the essence of who I am in the world.


On love…

kina palirra

Thank you, you are there.

I love you as you are. You are there. It is enough.


On compassion…


My chest is warm when I have compassion

When I have compassion for you, my heart feels good. When I show you my emotion I know the warmth of being brave.


On truth…


Beauty is when I am straight with my integrity

Truth is a tranquil pool in my soul. When I keep my integrity, that’s when I know the inner beauty of my spirit.  


On grief…

jarna-rarrinji ngililiji

Worth is when I can cry for people

Crying matters. When I cry with tears for other people I know the goodness inside me.


On family…


My family is the country of my soul

My family is the song of my life. It leads me across the landscape of my destiny.  


On forgiveness…


When I forgive you, I am free

Making peace with you cools my head and calms my spirit.


This blog includes excerpts from my memoir Listening to Country, published by Allen & Unwin 2010. If you would like to share the insights of these Aboriginal matriarchs with your networks, please acknowledge ©Listening to Country, Allen & Unwin 2010. The Aboriginal words are from the Yanyuwa language, spoken by families in Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria, NT, translated by Dr John Bradley.




  1. Annie Isaac Karrakayn
  2. Isa McDinny a-Yubuya
  3. Thelma Douglas Walwalmara
  4. Jemima Miller Wumarlu
  5. Rachael McDinny a-Mulyurrkulmanya
  6. Caroline Rory
  7. Rosie Noble a- Makandurnamara
  8. Linda McDinny a-Wambadurna.
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  1. Colin & Melissa Markham. March 8, 2016 at 6:01 am

    Ros, Well done should be more stories like this. Colin.

  2. Sandy Pugsley March 8, 2016 at 6:05 am

    Ros thank you so much for sending this to me…it is just beautiful, insightful and thoughtful. It is like a prayer…I have sent it onto others.

  3. Thank you for these wonderful women’s wisdom
    Great reminder to learn more through diversity.

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