While still a baby, Ruth's family moved to the Cherbourg Settlement. At the age of four, Ruth, along with her sister, was separated from the rest of the family and confined to dormitory accommodation until she was fourteen. After working for many years in domestic service, Hegarty married Joe Hegarty and raised a family of eight children.
Ruth Hegarty was a founding member of Koobara Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Resource Centre, president of the Brisbane respite centre Nalingu and has for many years been involved on a volunteer basis with projects for the young and the elderly. In 1998, she was awarded the Premier's Award for Queensland Seniors Year, for services to the community. In 1999, she served as the Queensland representative on the National Committee for the International year of Older Persons. In 2007, she was a member of the Queensland Stolen Wages Working Group for the Senate enquiry into stolen wages of Aboriginal workers.
Hegarty's story was recorded by the National Library of Australia for the Bringing Them Home oral history project and appeared in the associated publication Many Voices: Reflections on Experiences of Indigenous Child Separation edited by Doreen Mellor and Anna Haebich (2002).
Her two autobiographies appeared in 1999 and 2003. After a hiatus, she returned to publishing in 2015 with a series of children's books published by Scholastic Australia.
2010Queensland Greats Awards'Mrs Hegarty has actively pursued social justice for Indigenous people for most of her life. She was the spokesperson for the Queensland 'Stolen Wages' campaign and 'The Redress Scheme' and has participated in a number of government advisory groups including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Board and the Domestic Violence Council. Mrs Hegarty has established, operated and supported a range of Indigenous organisations and services. Mrs Hegarty has overcome the disadvantages associated with childhood institutionalisation and the historical racial discriminatory practices of previous governments to achieve practical outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Queensland. Mrs Hegarty is also a published writer and is known for works such as Is that You Ruthie? and My Bittersweet Journey, which document her personal history as one of the Stolen Generation and her childhood experiences of living in the Cherbourg dormitories.' Source: www.premiers.qld.gov.au/ (Sighted 23/06/2010).
Is That You, Ruthie?1999single work autobiography 'It that you...? Matron's voice would ring out across the dormitory. In that pause sixty little girls would stop in their tracks, waiting to hear who was in trouble. All too often the name called out would be that of the high spirited dormitory girl Ruthie. In the depression years Queensland's notorious Cherbourg Aboriginal Mission became home to four-year old Ruth until her late teens when she was sent out to serve as a domestic on a station homestead.' (Source: University of Queensland Press website)