Commission and Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Pay Tribute to Elder

Thursday 9 July 2009

 Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and peace Commission and Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team today paid tribute to prominent Aboriginal elder, Aunty Monica O’Callaghan, who passed away on 26 June in Brisbane.

Aunty Monica had worked for Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people in community organisations and Government bodies for many decades and was widely respected in the community.

Aunty Monica was farewelled at a funeral service at our Lady and St Dympna’s Catholic Church, Aspley, on Friday 3 July.

The Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, Brisbane Council of Elders Chair, Aunty Valda Coolwell, and Torres Strait islander elder, Uncle Bill lowah, were among many who paid tribute to Aunty Monica at her funeral.

Tribute messages from Queensland Attorney-General and the Chief Magistrate were also read at the service.

The Coordinator of the Murri ministry Team, Ravina Waldren, said that Aunty Monica was a passionate advocate for justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive officer, Peter Arndt, said that Aunty Monica had offered great leadership and support to many young Indigenous people in Brisbane.

“Aunty Monica never stopped working for her people and she was loved very much,” Ms Waldren said.

“She was an extraordinary woman and we are honoured to have known her and worked with her,” Mr Arndt said.

Aunty Monica was the first Indigenous Prisons Liaison Officer in Queensland and she worked with the Prisoners League to support prisoners.  She also worked tirelessly to rehabilitate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people after their release from prison.  She was a long-serving member of the Queensland Parole Board and also sat on the Brisbane Murri Court as an elder.

She managed the Elly Bennett Hostel for twenty years and influenced the lives of many Indigenous people for the better during this time.

In 1966, she was also employed by the Australian Electoral office to educate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on their right to vote.

She served as a Board member on many Indigenous organisations including OPAL, Murri Watch, Bahloo, Nungeena and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s legal Service.

“Aunty Mon was a strong, caring woman with a good sense of humour,” Ms Waldren said.

“Many of the young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whom she nurtured were at her funeral and spoke movingly about her positive influence,” Mr Arndt said.

“Many Aboriginal people are working hard today to make things better for our people because of the example of Aunty Mon,” Ms Waldren said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

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