Mum Shirl (Shirley Smith)
22 November 1921 — 28 April 1998
Mum Shirl was a Wiradjuri woman who was born into a large family on Erambie Reserve in rural New South Wales. While visiting her own brother in jail, Mum Shirl began to visit other prisoners, too. She got her nickname from her habit of replying ‘I’m his mum’ whenever officials queried her relationship with a prisoner. Even after her brother’s release, she continued to visit and give support to Indigenous people in prisons all over the state. Mum Shirl’s work to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians didn’t stop there: she was a founding member of the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, and the Aboriginal Children’s Service, all of which continue her work today.
Want to know more? Of course you do.
Mum Shirl appeared on 60 Minutes back in 1982, and her story was inspiring.