sorry business – dr. aunt ruby langford-ginibi

Passing Of A Great Truth Teller

Suvendrini Perera

Dr Aunty Ruby Langford Ginibi, one of Australias foremost Aboriginal authors, passed away on Saturday 2nd October in a Sydney nursing home. Through her numerous books, short stories, poetry, interviews and public appearances and her commitment to edu-ma-cating non-Aboriginal people about Indigenous peoples circumstances and struggle she made a distinctive and substantial contribution to Australian history and literature. Her books were studied in high schools and universities in Australia and internationally.

Aunty Ruby’s funeral will be at St Mary’s Catholic Church, Swanston Street, Erskineville, at 2 pm Wednesday 5 October 2011.

Aunty Ruby, who was given the title of Ginibi (Black Swan) by her Bundjalung elders received a number of awards, including the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Human Rights Award for Literature, the NSW Ministry for the Arts inaugural History Fellowship, an inaugural honorary fellowship from the National Museum of Australia, the NSW Premier’s Literary Award, and the Australia Council for the Arts Writers’ Emeritus Award, as well as an doctorate of letters (Honors Causia) from La Trobe University.

Born of the Bundjalung Nation in 1934 in Coraki, Aunty Rubys life was governed by fierce dedication to her family, especially her children – including those she adopted – her grand children and great grand children. She battled for them and with them in situations of extreme poverty and hardship.

After her schooling in the Casino area of northern NSW, where she excelled as a scholar, Ruby Anderson qualified as a clothing machinist in Sydney. She then took on an itinerant existence in rural towns, fencing, pegging roo skins, burning off and clearing scrub, living tribal, but with no tribe around me. She later returned to Sydney where she worked extensively in the clothing industry.

Aunty Ruby became an active member of the Sydney Koori community, and it was here, at the age of 53, that she became a pioneering author of Aboriginal life narratives with her first book, the bestselling Dont Take Your Love to Town (1984). In this pivotal text, she wrote: The pen is mightier than the sword but the finger in the sand is mightier than that in its own way.

Aunty Ruby used the combined might of the pen with the spirit and the strength of her ancestry to edu-ma-cate – that is, to tell non-Aboriginal people about the harsh realities of Aboriginal existence. In particular, she wrote of the devastating effects of the incarceration, not only on individuals caught up in the white injustice system but on their entire families in both Dont Take Your Love to Town and Haunted by the Past (1999).

In a radio interview in 1992, when speaking about her second book, Real Deadly, she declared that Its a good hope to educate people. Those of us who had the benefit of her edu-ma-cation know just how much this hope governed her life. She spoke often of bumping her gums to non-Aboriginal people, particularly those in positions of power, and her message was clear: Dont be gobbingh-miggingh [greedy guts] and take everything from us. You white people have to learn to give something back. You cannot take forever from us, because in the end, youll destroy yourselves too NINGINAH! STOP!.

In calling for white people to stop, Aunty also asked Australians to start rethinking ourselves, our collective history, and our collective future. Remembered for her irrepressible spirit and determination, her tenacious courage and her fearless assertion of the facts of colonisation and its impacts, Dr Ruby Langford Ginibi, Black Swan, Elder of the Bundjalung and Koori, will be sorely missed by her thousands of devoted readers, in Australia and elsewhere, but while her pen may be silenced, her message will continue. Most of all, we honour her for telling us the truth.

Ray Jackson

i first met aunt ruby during the early days of the aboriginal deaths in custody watch committee and i was much taken by her enthusiasm and her rock-solid commitment for justice, not only for her son, but for all the other aborigines locked up.

i had the great honour when she asked me to launch one of her books, i think it was her second one, at tranby aboriginal college. I also had the great pleasure of meeting her son nobby when he was released from gaol. I was able to visit aunt ruby when I had transport but since that time our catch ups were mainly by phone when she would ask me to assist in the travails of her grandson in the prison system.

the last time I saw ruby and nobby was at the invasion day festival at victoria park in sydney. she seemed as fit as she could possibly be and was still edu-ma-cating anyone who would stop and listen to her.

from her writings we know her to be a strong cultural woman and one that fought for justice all her life.

aunt ruby, you will be sorely missed and we extend our sympathies to Nobby and the rest of her family and her community in Bundgalung country.

we know that she now walks her land in peace

we ask that this be distributed widely and information on the funeral arrangements will be passed on as soon as they are known.


2 thoughts on “sorry business – dr. aunt ruby langford-ginibi

  1. A beautiful and strong Aboriginal woman who taught me a lot. I can’t be at your funeral today Aunty but I will never forget all you taught me. I will use the knowledge you passed to me wisely. Your sense of humor was amazing, your strength through all you endured inspiring. I’ll never forget when you told me the meaning of ATSIC. Love you Aunty.

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