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Margaret Gloria Gardiner

An advocate for social justice and advancement of Aboriginal cultural heritage and community services.


Highly respected figure for social justice, Aboriginal cultural heritage, and community services.

A Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elder, the late Aunty Margaret Gloria Gardiner was widely known as a fierce advocate for her Country (Biik) and community.

Aunty Margaret was born in north-west Victoria at Birchip in 1958 to Gloria Gardiner (nee Terrick) and Ewan Macarthur Gardiner. She moved to Melbourne with her family in 1969. 

Through her mother Gloria, Aunty Margaret was connected to the Woi-wurrung, Ngurai Illum Wurrung, Wamba Wamba, Barapa Barapa, Dja Dja Wurrung, Waywurru, Taungurung and Yorta Yorta nations. 

After leaving high school, Aunty Margaret began working at the Dandenong and District Aboriginal Co-operative Limited (DDACL). She also pursued a course at the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia, where she became certified as a long cane instructor.

Aunty Margaret received the Miss NAIDOC title in 1976, a significant recognition from the community early in her life. During the late 1980s, she served as an articulate spokesperson for the Wurundjeri people, playing a central role in steering the Wurundjeri Council and developing projects for her local community. From the early 1990s, she began working on the Mirimbiak Nations Aboriginal Corporation supporting Traditional Owners in asserting their rights over Country. She also served as a member of the Victorian Traditional Owner Land Justice Group and on the Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee for the Southeast Metropolitan Region.

In the mid-1990s, Aunty Margaret joined the board of the DDACL. Her unwavering commitment earned the trust of the community, leading to her regular re-election until her passing. Aunty Margaret campaigned for enhanced access to healthcare, improved housing conditions, better programs, and support for Aboriginal Elders and youth. 

Aunty Margaret delivered the inaugural Welcome to Country at the Glenroy Koorie Open Door Education (KODE) School in 2005. In 2011, she played a pivotal role in the effort to preserve the KODE School. Following its closure in 2012, she advocated for retaining the school site for the benefit of the Wurundjeri, Hume and Merri-bek First Nations communities. This site was later renamed Ballerrt Mooroop (meaning Strong Spirit). She also campaigned for the establishment of the Glenroy Community Hub, another important site of community building for First Nations people in the area. 

Aunty Margaret served on the board of the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation from 2006 until her passing. In this role, Aunty Margaret played a central role in advocating for native title rights by managing relationships and legal disputes between the state government, the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung and their neighbouring nations. 

She was appointed to the Birrarung Council, under the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017, where she advocated as a voice for the Birrarung (Yarra River). Aunty Margaret emphasised the importance of caring for the river and its surrounding lands. This underscores the necessity of maintaining the riverbank and adjacent areas to ensure the continued flow of the river and the provision of its life-giving resources. It reflects the acknowledgement of the river as a living entity, extending from its source to the sea.

Aunty Margaret was a dedicated researcher. She had vast knowledge about the genealogy of Aboriginal people in Victorian and their connection to ancestors and Country. Utilising this knowledge, she successfully participated in multiple litigations with the Victorian and Australian Governments over native title claims. Aunty Margaret was also involved in capturing the oral histories of Victorian Traditional Owners through the Koorie Oral Histories program. 

Aunty Margaret was a proud mother of Jemima Gardiner, Luke Gardiner, Mathew Gardiner and Jesse Rotumah-Gardiner. She was also known for taking in young people who did not have anywhere else to go and helping reunite them with family. This included her involvement in the local Dandenong Police Aboriginal Liaison Committee, Dandenong Local Justice Group, Southern Regional Aboriginal Justice Committee and other Community Committees. Aunty Margaret was also involved in an Aboriginal arts and dance group for children. 

Aunty Margaret was extremely passionate about the importance of cultural heritage. Her work increased the mainstream understanding of traditional connections, language and homeland connection for the local Aboriginal communities. She passed this legacy onto her children, grandchildren, and her nieces and nephews, making sure that they can understand and appreciate where their ancestors come from. 

Aunty Margaret's final resting place is at the Coranderrk Cemetery outside Healesville. She is buried next to Aunty Winnie Quagliotti (nee Terrick) whom she deeply admired. This site holds special significance for her family, as both Elders had a lifelong dedication and esteemed cultural standing within the Victorian Aboriginal community. 

Aunty Margaret’s outstanding contributions and advocacy are recognised by Aboriginal communities across Victoria. She showed immense bravery and courage in her conviction and character across all areas of her work and life. She remains a highly respected figure for her support for social justice and the advancement of Aboriginal cultural heritage and community services.