Mary Durack Fund

The Mary Durack Fund

Mary Margret Durack.
Photograph taken by Sarah Duguid

The Mary Margaret Durack fund was established thanks to the generous bequest left by Mary, who was a faithful friend and supporter of the Miriwoong people. The fund was created with the view to support the revitalisation of the Miriwoong language under management of Mirima Council Aboriginal Corporation (T/A Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre, ABN 25 858 328 285).

The purpose of this fund is to support projects and activities that will help strengthen the critically endangered Miriwoong language. Typical projects may include, but not be limited to, the development, production and distribution of language resources, the professional development of Miriwoong people, the sustainable documentation of Miriwoong language and culture, and activities supporting the promotion of the Miriwoong language in society.

If leaving a bequest in your Will and adding to this fund is something you would like to consider, we would be very grateful to hear from you.

Below is a short biography of Mary, which is based on conversations we had with her here at Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring (MDWg) before she passed away in 2021.

Mary Margaret Durack; Some History

The Durack family first came to Australia from Ireland to escape the the Irish potato famine in the 1850s. Mary’s ancestors were part of the original cattle drives from Queensland to the Kimberley. Many Miriwoong people – who were exceptional stockmen and who contributed greatly to the development of the cattle industry – still feel connected to the Durack family. Mary often acknowledged that the relationship between the settlers and the indigenous population was a complex one, “not all good and not all bad”. Mary however focused on building relationships, now and for the future, choosing to follow a path of friendship, focussing on what lay ahead. Mary was always interested in her family tree and during the time she spent visiting and living in the north of Australia (in particular the Kimberley) she developed meaningful relationships with indigenous family members from the Skeen family.

Mary was born in 1957 and grew up in Perth. She studied at the University of Western Australia completing a Bachelor of Science specializing in Botany, before moving to Sydney to complete a Master of Science majoring in Marine Biology at Sydney University. After working with the CSIRO in Sydney for several years – and when she worked as a marine biologist on a research vessel along the Great Barrier Reef, Mary moved to Townsville.

It was in Townsville where she spent most of the 1980s. This was the peak of Mary’s passion for diving. Snorkelling, diving, and bushwalking had become a passion for Mary and she took trips to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to practice her skills. She also obtained a degree in education at James Cook University and specialised in Aboriginal Education, followed by practical training on Palm Island and teaching in Townsville. Those years were very memorable for Mary as she learnt a lot about Indigenous Australians. In the late 1980s, Mary moved back to Perth as her mother needed support, before in the mid-1990s moving to Derby where she worked with the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority.

From 2002 to 2008, Mary lived in Paris, running an Aboriginal art business, and on returning to Australia settled in Darwin where she stayed for 8 years. Her work involved travel and consultation with outstations across the NT on behalf of the local Housing Authority.

Mary then bought a house in Kununurra in 2018 and moved here in 2019, where she intensified her relationship with the local Miriwoong people. Her love for the country developed as she walked extensively in the bush, enjoying the amazing places at our doorstep. In 2019 Mary had the opportunity to dive on the old Argyle Homestead which is now submerged under Lake Argyle.

Mary had a passion for languages, she spoke French, and in her school days she learnt Italian, and on arriving in Kununurra, joined the Miriwoong public language class at Mirima Language Centre in 2018-19 to acquire some knowledge of the local language here in Kununurra. She also attended the cultural awareness course at MDWg and enrolled in the second Miriwoong language course before it had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis. For someone to value and learn the language of their ancestors is a special sign of affection and affiliation for the Miriwoong people. In her own words, Mary says, “We are privileged here in Kununurra to be able to learn the local language. It is one way I think I can show respect to Miriwoong people.”

Thanks to Mary’s support, the revitalisation of the Miriwoong language is continuing with the aim of local children becoming the future generation of Miriwoong speakers.

Leaving A Bequest

Remembering MDWg in your Will is a very personal decision and will carry on shaping the lives of Miriwoong people even when you are no longer here in person. When you leave a share of your earthly possessions in a bequest, you can let us know what specific wishes you have for their use.

If you would like to contribute to the Mary Margaret Durack fund, your gift will be put towards the projects, activities and initiatives listed earlier.

If you wish to establish a fund in your own name, we will aim to use those funds in a sustainable manner, spreading out their allocation over years to come. The decision on how your gift is used is entirely yours. Whether this involves the development of new language resources, strengthening the capacity of Miriwoong people, or learning and sharing more about the Miriwoong language – there are many ways to help our mission to revitalise the Miriwoong language and culture. We will be happy to help you articulate your specific priorities and are committed to following your wishes into the future.

Bringing the Miriwoong language back to life is a lengthy, ongoing task and MDWg’s mission is to improve the lives of Miriwoong people by supporting their unique heritage. We would love to talk to you about how you would be able to partner with us in this mission.