Emeritus Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik AO

Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik is a proud Djaru Elder from the East Kimberly who spent most of her life in Darwin.

Honour Roll

MaryAnn Bin-Sallik was born in Broome, Western Australia on 2 November, 1940. She remembers hunting and gathering, fishing and collecting bush tucker as a young child.

When she was nine the family moved to Darwin. She considers herself lucky that her mother knew all her relatives and that she was not forcibly removed from her family. Her father drove a truck and her mother worked at a variety of occupations in order to send her daughter to Mercedes College in Adelaide for her secondary education.

In 1958, Mary commenced general nursing training at Darwin Hospital and in 1962 she became the first Aboriginal nursing sister to graduate from that hospital. She then married, had two children and continued nursing on an Aboriginal Reserve.

She went to Europe with a friend and when she returned she separated from her husband and moved with her children to Adelaide. Unfortunately she could not find work and instead was forced to go on welfare to survive. They were living in near poverty so she decided to look for other work and began cleaning and washing dishes to make ends meet.

Finally, she found employment as a student counsellor to the Aboriginal Task Force at the South Australian Institute of Technology. As part of her contract she had to do an Associate Diploma in Social Work with a major in counselling. Doing this course was very hard because of the unfamiliar terminology and language of sociology. Mary persevered and for four years worked full-time, studied part-time and raised her children.

Eventually, in 1982, she became the co-ordinator of the whole program. Once her children were older she became more involved in extra-curricular activities such as the National Museum of Australia, the National Committee Against Discrimination in Employment and Occupation and the National Aboriginal Employment and Development Committee. In 1983, the Task Force mounted a Bachelor's Degree in Aboriginal Affairs Administration with a triple major: Public Administration, Australian Ethnology and Community Anthropology.

Mary felt it odd that she was working to encourage students to pursue further education when she was not highly educated herself. With encouragement from Roberta Sykes and funds from the Aboriginal Overseas Study Award, she went to Harvard to do a Masters Degree. Sykes, through her Black Women's Action in Education Foundation, raised the money for her to continue to study for a PhD.

She became the first Indigenous woman to receive a doctorate in 1989. She is using her degree to encourage others to become leaders in the movement and to break down racial barriers.