Safina Stewart celebrates the impact her mother Aunty Doseena Fergie has had on countless lives, as she continues to educate, inspire, advocate, lead, love and support people throughout the world.

Aunty Doseena Fergie

Safina Stewart, an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Christian leader with The Grasstree Gathering and contemporary Indigenous faith artist, celebrates the impact her mother Aunty Doseena Fergie has had on countless lives, as she continues to educate, inspire, advocate, lead, love and support people throughout the world.

I want to take this opportunity to honour my mother, Doseena Fergie (nee Bin-Garape) as one who epitomised this year's NAIDOC theme, “Because of her, we can!”.

Mum is a proud Wuthathi and Mabuiag Islander woman whose ‘can do’ life of faith choses to see obstacles as opportunities. She was born six weeks premature on Thursday Island in 1953 to Gladys and Mial Bin-Garape. From her earliest days she has been an overcomer, and consequently recognised as a peer leader and positive role-model given her infectious desire to learn, serve and contribute in all of life.

Following five years of nursing and midwifery training at the Royal Brisbane Hospital in the early 1970s, she met and married my dad, Bob Fergie. In 1976, they moved to the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea to work at the Christian Leaders’ Training College. Dad was a teacher and mum the sole nurse caring for a campus community of over 300 and many more local villagers living close by. During their 15 years in PNG, mum and dad raised me, my brother Stu and sister Renae. Our childhood was full of fun, adventure, community and faith, as we learned to become comfortable in our own skin, discovering our own unique passion/vocation within the creative Arts as it has turned out.

Doseena Fergie with her daughter Safina Stewart and granddaughter Arieta Fergie. Photo: Eddie Jim, The Age

As a home maker, midwife, missionary, activist, manager, and more recently a university teacher, mum has been an amazing change-agent, catalyst and inspiration for many, many people, indigenous and non-indigenous alike. This has only been enhanced in recent years through the completion of Ph.D. studies (ACU); an inductee onto the Victorian Women’s Roll of Honour; and as a recipient of a prestigious Churchill Fellowship in 2017 which provided her the opportunity to visit First Nations communities in Europe, Canada, USA and New Zealand to study how indigenous victims of colonisation have found ways, not only to survive, but thrive with dignity, respect and cultural values intact.

“Because of her, we can!”, rings true of my mum, Doseena Fergie, too.

– written by Safina Stewart. 

You can read more about the three generations of women in Aunty Doseena's family in an article written by The Age: 'Strength and beauty - three generations of Indigenous women in one place'.

This post is the third in our NAIDOC Week series "Because of her, we can!" celebrating Aboriginal Christian women who have shaped our lives, our churches and our nation. This story was shared by Safina Stewart, an Aboriginal Christian leader with The Grass Gathering and a contemporary Indigenous faith artist ( NAIDOC Week Artwork by Cheryl Moggs.

A section of the artwork 'A Mother's Love'
Safina Stewart (artbysafina)
Nations: Mabuiag Island and Wuthathi Country
Lives: Wonthaggi, VIC

Throughout this week we are sharing artworks from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists who are part of The Grasstree Gathering network. These artworks are being shared with permission of the artists, and are not to be copied or reproduced. They are currently on display at The Grasstree Gathering Art Exhibition at Newtown Mission in Sydney, available for public viewing this coming weekend. If you would like to purchase an artwork from the artist please email [email protected].

"Because of her, we can" - NAIDOC Week 2018