By Naomi Giles
Muriel Hazel Roberts, a pioneer of advocacy and community development among Indigenous communities, was farewelled on 19 July by a gathering of family, friends and community leaders at Lismore Uniting Church and others online. She passed away peacefully at St Joseph’s Nursing Home on 8 July.
Embraced by the wider Aboriginal community as ‘Aunty Muriel’, she was known for her compassion, tenacity and deep faith. Throughout her life, she generously provided practical care and love to her family and the wider community.
Muriel was married to Frank Roberts, an Indigenous pastor and advocate who worked among Indigenous communities on the NSW North Coast. Frank served with the Australian Board of Mission (Anglican) between 1969 and 1974.
Muriel met Frank in the 1950s at Earlwood Church of Christ in Sydney where she was involved in children’s and youth ministry. Frank was training through the Woolwich Bible College (now ACOM) and was assigned as a student minister to her church.
After marrying, she worked alongside Frank throughout his ministry and advocacy. In the 1960s, they moved from Sydney to the North Coast where they played a key role in helping to promote the ‘Yes’ vote in the 1967 referendum for changing the constitution to include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be counted as part of the population. Muriel also helped administer several not-for-profit entities to support Indigenous communities with housing and rehabilitation.
In her latter years, she continued to contribute to the welfare of others. Working with the ladies of Northern Rivers Church of Christ, she sewed thousands of garments for children in need. These garments were distributed through Operation Christmas Child (Samaritan’s Purse).
She was the much-loved mother and mother-in-law of Philip and Karen, Lois (dec.), Rhoda and Steve, and Mark.
Fresh Hope pastor Ian Phillips led Muriel’s memorial service. He began a friendship with Frank and Muriel when he was pastoring at Lismore Church of Christ in the early 1990s and said he learnt from them deep lessons of compassion and zeal for justice. He said Muriel’s legacy was written in the lives of those she loved deeply, the many people she helped and through her enduring faith.
The link to her memorial service can be found HERE.