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Carmine "Maggie" Munro
Carmine May Smith
|Known for||Australian Aboriginal leader|
Maggie Munro was a community leader and confidante and was well known as a supporter of human rights for Aboriginal people.
She was born Carmine May Smith in 1931 in an Aboriginal camp in Moree, the second of three girls born to Raymond Smith, a boundary rider, and Mary Jane French. Her mother died when she was a toddler and her father remarried. The new union gave Maggie a further 12 more brothers and sisters.
According to her Sydney Morning Herald obituary, "As a child, she and sister Beryl helped their father, who worked on Pullaman Station, in the task of maintaining fences. Beryl also helped break in the horses but Maggie was afraid of them - a fear she wouldn't conquer until later in life".
Munro attended Moree Mission School but finished at primary level, as Aboriginal children weren't permitted to attend the local high school. Fifty years after leaving her primary education behind, Munro she returned to study, taking courses in woodwork and upholstery at Moree TAFE (technical college).
She worked with local families in the area as a domestic, a cook at the Gwydir Boarding House and also as a shearers' cook at various stations including Terlings. Its owner, Sinclair Hill, was a firm supporter of the Aboriginal people of the area and he and Munro became lifelong friends. She also worked at the old McMaster Ward, a segregated section of Moree District Hospital reserved for Aborigines. Before the ward was built, Aboriginal mothers gave birth at the site in tents.
It was when she was 16, that Munro left Moree for Sydney, gravitating to the Aboriginal community in Redfern. The Redfern community was the center of urban Aboriginal politics in New South Wales. Munro worked in a nearby ice cream factory in Chippendale.
She first met Lyall Munro when they were children but years passed before they saw each other again, at the Gunnedah showgrounds in 1948. The pair became inseparable and soon after, ran away to Moree - where Lyall worked as a junior porter for the railways - and eloped. Paula, the first of 12 children, was born in 1950. Lyall Munro would go on to become one of the pillars and elder statesmen of the Australian Aboriginal community. He and Maggie would be part of every essential protest, decision and action for Aboriginal rights for the next 50 years.
The Munros were particularly involved in land rights. Lyall and Maggie's son, Lyall junior became well known faces and spokesman for the movement, while Maggie stayed in Moree tending to local community issues. She fostered many children, was an active member of the PTA and was a committed member of the football club auxiliary.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "On numerous occasions, Maggie took out first prize at the Moree show for cooking - scones and damper were a specialty - and also won prizes for sewing. She steadfastly refused to get a sewing machine, creating everything by hand and often staying up all night to complete a garment. Once, when the dresses for a local wedding didn't arrive from Sydney in time, Munro sewed them by hand, too."
The Granniators became one of Munro's lasting legacies. Founded when Munro was 74, the group of Aboriginal grandmothers worked for their community, cooking, babysitting, fostering, clothing and mothering local children. She also worked closely with local police on issues of juvenile crime.
In 1993, she was awarded the local National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee Murri (NSW Aborigine) of the Year Award.
Maggie Munro died on 29 December 2010. Her funeral was held on 8 January 2011 at the Moree Memorial Hall.
She is survived by her husband Lyall, 10 children, 70 grandchildren, 74 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.
-  Sydney Morning Herald, 1 April 2011