Oodgeroo was born in 1920 on Stradbroke Island (the island is called Minjerriba by the aboriginal people), Queensland, of the Noonuccal people of the Yuggera group. She was best known for her poetry, although she was also an actress, writer, teacher, artist and a campaigner for Aboriginal rights.
Oodgeroo shared with her father the Dreaming totem the carpet snake (Kabul) and his sense of injustice. Leaving school at the age of 13, Oodgeroo worked as a domestic servant until 1939,when she volunteered for service in the Australian Women's Army Service. Between 1961 and 1970, Oodgeroo achieved national prominence not only as the Queensland State Secretary of the Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (CAATSI), but through her highly popular poetry and writing. With her 1964 collection of verse We Are Going,Oodgeroo became the first published Aboriginal woman. Selling out in three days, We Are Going rivalled the previous record for a publication of Australian verse set in 1916 by C. J. Dennis and his Moods of Ginger Mick. The Dream Is at Hand (1966) was her second volume of poems. My People (1970) represented verse from the earlier editions as well as new poems, short stories, essays and speeches. Stradbroke Dreamtime was published in 1972. Oodgeroo also wrote a number of children's books - Father Sky and Mother Earth (1981), Little Fella (1986), and The Rainbow Serpent (1988) with her son, Kabul Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Vivian). Oodgeroo was involved with many Aboriginal rights organisations. These organisations included the National Tribal Council, the Aboriginal Arts Board, the Aboriginal Housing Committee, and the Queensland Aboriginal Advancement League.
Her work is recognised worldwide. The theme of many of her works is the hope
for understanding and peace between black and white Australians.
"But I'll tell instead of brave and fine
when lives of black and white entwine.
And men in brotherhood combine,
this would I tell you, son of mine."
Oodgeroo began writing poems when she was young, but it wasn't until she was in her forties that a well known writer encouraged Oodgeroo to publish them.
"She said something to me that I've never forgotten. I said I didn't think they were good enough and she said 'girl, these are not your poems. They belong to the people. You are just the tool that writes them down'. "
Oodgeroo kept writing, and became recognised around the world as an outstanding poet.
Her Aboriginal upbringing was her main inspiration. Oodgeroo grew up on North Stradbroke Island, near Brisbane.
Here, surrounded by the sea and the bushland she'd wander off for hours exploring. Nature became very important to her.
"Whenever my Mother used to rouse about me being a wanderer and going off on my own looking for shells and feathers and things like that she used to say you'll have to stop her from wandering and Dad used to say 'leave her alone, she's different'."
Oodgeroo used to say she got her stubborness from her father. It came out at school when the teachers forced her to write with her right hand, even though she was left handed. Young Oodgeroo suffered many blows across the back of her left knuckles before she finally gave in.
Her father also taught her to be proud of her Aboriginality.
"Dad always said to me 'you're black, you're Aboriginal, always be proud of it, but always know this, that if you're going to do anything in this world you've not only got to be as good as the white person, you've got to be better'."
In the 1960s, Oodgeroo campaigned for Aboriginal rights. Until then Aboriginal Australians didn't even have the right to vote.
Oodgeroo fought for equality. She travelled across Australia, giving as many as ten talks a day.
The campaign was successful. In 1967 Aboriginal Australians could finally have an equal say in how their country was run.
Oodgeroo Noonuccal continued to fight for her people. She travelled the world, telling others about the dreadful conditions Aborigines were living under.
But Oodgeroo felt people weren't listening to her, conditions weren't improving.
Frustrated, she decided to go back to the place she loved, her tribal land on North Stradbroke Island. The Noonuccals call their land Moongalba, which means 'sitting down place'. It's very sacred to them.
"At night time you can hear the old people talking lingo down here, especially on a calm night, you can hear it, the spirits are all around here."
But the Government said it owned Moongalba and Oodgeroo wasn't allowed to build anything there. She wanted to turn it into an Aboriginal museum.
The only way she could stay on her land was to camp there, in a caravan and tents.
Oodgeroo invited children, both black and white, to share her land and learn the Aboriginal ways.
"Over thirty thousand children have been here in the last twenty years...if they only come once it's embedded in their mind because here no one passes judgement on them, they have to be their own judge and jury."
When Oodgeroo Noonuccal died hundreds of people mourned, but that's not what she wanted. Oogeroo wanted people to celebrate her achievements and to continue working for true understanding between all Australians. Oodgeroo's memory stands today as a shining role model for all Australians as someone who strived for true respect and understanding between both the white and black communities.