Karen Ella-Bird was born in La Perouse. She is a Yuin Woman on her mother?s side and a Gadigal Woman on he
Karen Ella-Bird was born in La Perouse. She is a Yuin Woman on her mother?s side and a Gadigal Woman on he

Honorary Gumbaynggirr

By UTE SCHULENBERG

SOME would describe Karen Ella-Bird as a rare bird, but the truth is, she is living up to her Yuin totem, Umbarra or Black Duck.

Born in La Perouse, she is a Yuin Woman on her mother's side and a Gadigal Woman on her father's.

The fourth oldest of 12 children, her family are, poignantly, a rarity in the broader indigenous community today because all of them are still alive.

When she moved north to Nambucca Heads 21 years ago, much to the astonishment of her family, her sister said she wouldn't survive without Kooris.

"But when I got up here, I found lots of Kooris and I've been working with them ever since," Karen said.

Once in the valley, she found herself particularly drawn to Bowraville.

"I love the place, I love the people.

"I had seen other indigenous communities thriving but this town wasn't and I couldn't see why we couldn't have the same opportunities here. So I started trying to help."

In recognition of her commitment, Karen was given status as a Gumbaynggirr woman by the towns' elders some years ago.

Her husband, Kevin Bird, director of Wesley Uniting Employment, said the community has put their trust in her.

"She is chairperson of both the MiiMi Mothers Aboriginal Corporation and the Nambucca Heads Land Council and is part of the Valley Elders Council," Kevin said.

Karen credits her Nan, Muriel Stewart OAM, as being her greatest inspiration.

"She worked so hard for Aboriginal communities and now all my cousins and even the grandkids are doing something to help our Aboriginal community it's in our blood."

MiiMi (Gumbaynggirr for mother) has been the quiet driving force behind many initiatives in Bowraville for many years.

Its mission has always been to service families and get things happening in the town.

Karen was voted chairperson three years ago and hasn't stopped since.

"MiiMi is about sourcing funds for the community and helping with governance," she said.

"We are there to help everyone, especially the kids.

"Bowraville has the highest unemployment in the valley.

"We need to look after the kids the kids are our today, and that gives us a future."

Long ago MiiMi recognised the need for more services in town.

Now they are on the edge of the historic signing of a Shared Responsibility Agreement (SRA) with the Federal Government.

The SRA will mean many things, but key among them is a house in the main street of town, which is to become a hub for services and initiatives.

"The community are saying they want to change, so we are there to help that happen.

"We have programs for everything from taking girls on youth camps, to local blokes landscaping around the 'Mish', to women doing life skills courses, to kids putting together a Big Day Out in October."

She is excited to see how the indigenous community is driving the change.

"It has taken a long time to start making the changes, but now we have momentum and we can't keep up.

"The more that's needed, the more MiiMi will speak up."

And that is indeed special and inspiring.



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