Dr Aunty Ruby Ginibi was born on Invasion Day, 26 January 1934, and, sadly, passed away on 1 October 2011. Aunty Ruby was given the title Ginibi, meaning 'black swan', by her Bundjalung Elders, and she was one of Australia’s foremost Aboriginal authors and historians.
Born of the Bundjalung Nation, Aunty Ruby was educated in Casino until the age of 15. She moved to Sydney, where she qualified as a machinist, before returning to the country and working in various rural towns, clearing scrub, fencing, pegging kangaroo skins, and burning off. Later, she returned to Sydney where she resumed a position in the clothing industry.
Aunty Ruby dedicated her life not only to many Aboriginal causes but also, first and foremost, to her nine children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren. Like many women writers, she began her writing career later in life.
In Sydney, Aunty Ruby became an active member of the urban Koori community. At age 53, she penned her first and probably best-known work, Don’t Take Your Love to Town (1988). This work has been seminal in the genre of Aboriginal life writing. It was within this now well-known autobiography that Aunty Ruby proclaimed, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword, but the finger in the sand is mightier in its own way.’
Aunty Ruby wrote non-fiction, poems, short stories, and essays that made a distinctive contribution to Australian literature and history. Many of her works are studied in high schools and universities in Australia and abroad.
Through both the written and the spoken word, Aunty Ruby was committed to educating non-Aboriginal people about the circumstances and struggles of Aboriginal people. In particular, she wrote of the devastating effects of incarceration, not only for individuals but for entire families.
Along with the 1988 Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Human Rights Award for Literature for Don’t Take Your Love to Town, Aunty Ruby received an inaugural History Fellowship from the NSW Ministry for the Arts in 1994; an inaugural honorary fellowship from the National Museum of Australia in 1995; an honorary Doctor of Letters from La Trobe University, Victoria, in 1998; an honorary Doctor of Letters from Southern Cross University, Northern Rivers; the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Special Award in 2005; and the 2006 Australia Council for the Arts Writers’ Emeritus Award. More recently, she received, at a ceremony during the Sydney Writers’ Festival, an award that recognised the achievements of writers over the age of 65.
Dr Aunty Ruby Langford Ginibi will be remembered as one of Australia’s great activists, authors, historians, and storytellers. Her pen is now still, but her words will remain with us forever.
- BlackWords National Coordinator Dr Jeanine Leane