It was wonderful to see Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann awarded Senior Australian of the Year at the recent Australian Day Awards. Miriam-Rose, an Aboriginal Elder from Daly River, is an educator, leader, artist, activist and contemporary mystic.
Miriam-Rose has worked tirelessly to encourage Aboriginal people to become teachers and to support teacher training and development in remote areas. She became the first indigenous teacher in the Northern Territory, later becoming principal and working with the Department of Education to promote the importance of the creative arts in schools. Miriam-Rose uses her own artistic talents to share the Christian story with others.
This painting was commissioned for the Australian Marist School’s Conference (AMSA) in 2011. Miriam-Rose explained the images she had chosen:
My painting interprets Mary with a baby in her arms, standing on the Earth as she crushes the head of the serpent. Aboriginal people talk about the Earth being our mother. We come from the Earth. We don’t own the Earth – we belong to it. Mother Earth nourishes us – it feeds us through the many seasons, with all of its resources.
The body of the serpent is like a road. This is our journey through life- it is challenging – there are many hurdles. If we overcome the hurdles and challenges, there is a reward at the end of the journey. This is represented by the tail of the snake transforming into a tree. It is the same tree that Adam and Eve took the fruit from – interpreted as Heaven for me.