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Meet Senior Australian of the Year – Sister Anne Gardiner

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Photograph of an elderly woman wearing glasses and a white top, she is sitting on a wooden dining chair. Behind her is a bookshelf, and next to her is a plant.
“Anne has a wonderful sense of humour. She is funny and also a friend to everyone.” Image courtesy of National Australia Day Council.
9 Mar 2017

2017 Senior Australian of the Year, Sister Anne Gardiner has called for more understanding of Indigenous cultures.

Her heartfelt speech delivered at the Australian of the Year Awards ceremony introduced her to the nation at large but for Tiwi Islanders, her passion and love filled service has been part of their lives for 50 years.

Tiwi Islands Indigenous engagement officer Mavis Kerinaiua met Sister Anne 40 years ago when Mavis began at St Therese’s school in Nguiu (now Wurrumiyanga).

“She was my Religious Education teacher. She was also my first son’s God-mother, and later my employer when she was the principal of the school,” Mavis said.

Sister Anne is a strong advocate of Tiwi culture and back then, supported bi-lingual education and the transition into Tiwi control of the school.

“With the Tiwi Milimika (Strong Tiwi Women), Anne supported the name of the school change from St Therese to Murrupurtiyanuwu Primary School and for the appointment of a Tiwi Principal.”

Mavis believes that Sister Anne’s greatest achievement in the Tiwi Islands was the establishment of the Patakijiyali Museum, including the Interpreter Centre, designed to preserve Tiwi history, language and culture.

“She also opened the Frangipani Café for people to enjoy coffee and cake on a Saturday morning,” Mavis said.

Sister Anne is a full participant in Tiwi culture including dancing at Tiwi ceremonies. She’s a strong supporter of AFL which is like a second religion on the islands, and she is well known for being a passionate supporter of the Sydney Swans.

“Anne has a wonderful sense of humour. She is funny and also a friend to everyone,” Mavis said.

“She is very strong, very approachable and mother of all the Tiwi generations.  Tiwi people are very lucky to have Sister Anne commit her life to our people for so long. We think of her as part of the Tiwi Family forever.”

Find out more

Visit the ABC news site to see Sister Anne Gardiner’s speech at the 2017 Australian of the Year Awards ceremony.

The Australian of the Year Awards website has more information about the 2017 recipients and how you can submit a future nomination.

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