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Mr Ronnie Booth Snr: Founder and ‘Father’ of Binjari

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Elderly Aboriginal man with white hair and beard and dressed in pale blue shirt is holding a pot of flowers. In the background are two women dressed in black and a line of tall leafy trees.
Ronnie Booth Snr. (Photo courtesy of the Katherine Times.)
11 Sep 2017

When a loved one passes away, we remember their life and its impact on our own. This is the case for the community of Binjari in the Northern Territory with the recent passing of Ronnie Booth Snr.

Over the years, Ronnie served in many roles. He was an educator, a mentor, a storyteller and more than anything, a friend. Each one of his relatives, in-laws and the community members have a story to tell about him. Each has been a recipient of his love and sacrifice.

Ronnie was born on Brunette Downs Mission near Tennant Creek, a member of the Warramunga clan. At age 15, he moved to Katherine and worked as an orderly in the Katherine Hospital. He then worked at other jobs on various stations in the Victoria River area.

Ronnie was a large man with a kind and gentle heart.

His brother, Mr Billy Maroney said he was a giving person with little to give, something highly respected by Indigenous people.

“He would always ask people, “Are you okay”,” Billy said.

“He would walk down the street and would ask young and old. He had a gift for knowing if someone was down on his luck. He would give you the shirt off his back and pull up for anyone by the side of the road to see if they were alright, black, white or brindle.”

Ronnie married three times and had seven children. He has numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren and to this day, one great-great grandchild. Over the years, he fostered other children, provided a safe-haven for still more and took great pleasure in serving them all.

“For him, it was about giving the kids a chance at a better life,” Billy said.

His daughter Evoone Booth said he gave up drinking many years ago and helped other family members to do the same. While serving for years as President of the Binjari Community Government Council, he argued continually to keep Binjari a ‘dry’ community.

In recognition of this service, he was named NT NAIDOC Elder of the Year in 2012. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award for caring for children, for advocating for self-determination, and for his work and commitment to establishing the Binjari community.

It was Ronnie who staked out the boundaries of the proposed Binjari community in 1989. Just a year later, the Federal Government excised two square kilometres of land from Manbulloo Station to formally create the community in 1990. Working long and hard with other community leaders, he established homes, a health clinic, a sealed road and an office.

Though the passing of this ‘gentle giant’ at age 87 years has left a hole in the heart of Binjari community, his life and legacy will inspire its members for years to come.

Note: The family of Mr Ronnie Booth Snr have given permission to use his name in part and in full, and for the use of the above photo, in the publication of this story.