Aunty Dot Martin


“To pick up where I left off, you have to begin where I began”.

For Bourke’s Dot Martin, whose life began on Mount Gundabooka, the saying rings true. Dot’s clan, the Ngemba, have a special affinity with the mountain. Traditional Owners of the lands south of the Darling River, as far east as Brewarrina and stretching as far as Ivanhoe, the people were relocated to towns as far away as Tibooburra, Cootamundra, and Brewarrina. Ngemba still holds a strong presence in Bourke, and so does Dot Martin.

As a member of the Bourke Arts Council, the Tribal Council, the National Parks Joint Management Committee, and the Chairperson of MUDA, Dot has a finger in every pie, so to speak, and is the community’s go-to, in terms of coordinating projects. As the town’s touchstone, she sees it as her privilege and honour to ‘point people in the right direction’. It’s Dot’s belief that community projects and workshops will see the revival of Aboriginal culture in the community, so it is important that Elders inform the projects that occur within the community.

“We need to bring the culture back, even if it’s just through all this artwork and weaving”.

Dot envisions Aboriginal voices being louder and clearer in Bourke. She’s currently working on developing a regional art gallery for the town, which she hopes will encourage both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists to showcase their work.

Although she has made a lifestyle of facilitating many of the community’s endeavours, it was in fact, Dot, who had a position at the town’s primary school created specially for her, when she was fifteen. It resulted in her being Bourke’s first Aboriginal teacher’s aide, and is perhaps one of her motivators in helping young Aboriginal community members to learn and grow. Since then, she’s worked in home care and in nursing; a career she attributes to her confidence in public speaking.

A tireless community volunteer, Dot has had to turn down some of the paid positions she has been offered in order to be able to commit the time to the community projects that are so important to her.