Kevin Minson

Kevin Minson


    Tribute paid to retiring Aboriginal elder Ralph Winmar

    12/09/1996 12:00 AM



    Assisting Justice Minister Kevin Minson today paid tribute to Aboriginal elder Mr Ralph Winmar, who retired this month after more than eight years with the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme.


    Mr Winmar, who was born at Badjaling Mission in Quairading in 1936, worked as a shearer and farm labourer before starting as an Aboriginal `visitor' when the scheme was launched in 1988.


    The Aboriginal Visitors Scheme was set up in the wake of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and has been administered by the Ministry of Justice since 1993.


    "The visitors scheme does an outstanding job in providing support and counselling for Aboriginal detainees in police lockups, prisons and juvenile detention centres," Mr Minson said.


    "Mr Winmar is a respected member of a team which has, over the years, included more than 60 people."


    Mr Minson said Aboriginal visitors were committed people who worked part-time to support prisoners and juvenile detainees in their local communities.


    The scheme operated throughout the metropolitan area, as well as in regional centres including Kalgoorlie, Albany, Broome, Geraldton, Meekatharra, Roebourne and Bunbury.


    "Mr Winmar is one of a special band of people but is particularly notable for his generosity of spirit and his commitment to the Aboriginal Visitor's Scheme," the Minister said.


    "He is an elder of the Ballardong people and is also known by his tribal name of Munyari.


    "Aboriginal elders such as Mr Winmar play an important role in counselling young Aboriginal offenders and setting them on the right path.


    "They not only present a friendly face and help protect the rights and well-being of Aboriginal people in detention, they also try to educate detainees and the wider community.


    "I would urge members of Aboriginal communities throughout Western Australia to consider becoming involved in programs such as the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme because of the invaluable support they can give those in detention."


    Mr Minson said that, as a prison visitor, Mr Winmar strived to engender a sense of pride in Aboriginal heritage through the Noongar Cultural Awareness Program, in which he shared his written stories and taught his traditional language and culture.


    Mr Winmar was nominated for the Senior Aboriginal of the Year Award in 1995 by the National Aboriginal and Islander Council and last month launched his first book `Walwalinj' - which means `the hill that cries'.


    Mr Winmar's wife, Dorothy, has also worked for the Aboriginal Visitors Scheme since 1988 and will continue while Mr Winmar concentrates on writing.


    Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 9595 or 222 9211