Sadness of passing of Arnhem Land educator - Dr Marika 


The Charles Darwin University community was shocked and saddened to learn of the untimely death of an inspirational Indigenous woman of Arnhem Land, Dr Marika.

The CDU community expresses its sincere condolences to all of her family and the broader Yirrkala community.

Dr Marika was widely respected in the Yolngu community of north-east Arnhem Land, across the Northern Territory and in the wider Australian community. Her passion to empower local people generated great respect. In 1984, she spearheaded the Yirrkala School Action Group which resulted in the local school council taking control of local education programs in her community.

She was a role model for educational advancement and gave tirelessly to improve education and training opportunities for Aboriginal people and achieve the concept of ‘both ways’ learning. She had been widely recognised for her contribution to educating Aboriginal people in the NT and services to reconciliation and inter-cultural understanding being the recipient of the Territorian of the Year and the NT’s Australian of the Year awards in 2006 and appointed to the boards of both Reconciliation Australia and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

Dr Marika made a positive difference to Australia. In particular, she successfully worked toward educational outcomes which will empower Aboriginal people to express themselves as Aborigines in an environment, which understands and respects the bases of Aboriginal culture. In that process, she has enhanced the educational opportunities for non-Aboriginal people to learn about Aboriginal culture and traditions. In so doing, she has enriched the cultural inheritance of all Australians.

In 2007 Charles Darwin University awarded her a Doctor of Education, Honoris Causa in recognition of her outstanding contribution to her many notable contributions to the whole Australian community, the education of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and her substantial contribution to CDU’s Yolngu Studies Program as senior advisor and translator for many years. Through her work at CDU she promoted an understanding and appreciation of Yolngu language and culture through the wider community.

Many of us at CDU worked closely with her, both in the Yolngu studies program and the organisation of the Key Forum held annually as part of the Garma Festival. Sitting around a camp fire at Garma with Dr Marika was a wonderful experience. Her legacy will be evident for generations to come and our fond memories of her will remain an inspiration as we work to enhance mutual understanding.

Professor Helen Garnett PSM

Vice Chancellor