Celebrating Shirley (Mum Shirl) Smith – Today marks the start of NAIDOC week, a time when Australia recognizes the culture of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. In keeping with this year’s theme, “Because of Her, We Can!” guest artist Cheryl Moggs, a proud descendant of the Bigambul people of Goondiwindi, created this Doodle celebrating the vibrant spirit of “Mum Shirl.”
Colleen Shirley Perry Smith was born on November 22, 1921, in Erambie Mission, an Aboriginal community in New South Wales. Diagnosed with epilepsy at an early age, Shirl dedicated her life to community activism that resulted in social reform for Aboriginal Australians and other minority communities throughout the country.
After her brother Laurie was arrested, Shirl began visiting Sydney’s Long Bay Correctional Complex to check on him and other Aboriginal inmates. When guards asked how she was related to the prisoners she wanted to visit, she’d say she was their “mum”—and a legend was born. Her work was not limited to prisons, however; Shirl was a founding member of the Aboriginal Children’s Service, the Aboriginal Housing Company, the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, and the Aboriginal Legal Service.
Mum Shirl resided in Sydney for the majority of her life, often travelling to educate Australians on issues affecting Aboriginal communities. Revered for her humanitarian work, this captivating speaker was recognized as a National Living Treasure by Australia’s National Trust in 1998. “Many people have told me they think I’m an exception,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I’m not… There are many fine Aboriginal people who, with half a chance, would be doing what I am now doing.” Thanks to her, many more have.
Guest art by Cheryl Moggs.
You can find more about Celebrating Shirley (Mum Shirl) Smith on the official Google Doodle Page