Martha Borinelli (nee Taylor)

Martha Borinelli (nee Taylor). Courtesy of Carina Ward

Martha Borinelli (nee Taylor) was born on April 12, 1944 and died on April 22, 2008. A Yued-Noongar woman, Martha spent the first five years of her life at Mogumber with her family. One day, whilst visiting her sister at the New Norcia Mission, she was unwillingly admitted into the Home where she remained until she was 15. Martha Borinelli still maintained her Noongar identity. She stood up against prejudice in her town and started the Noongar darts team in Moora. Martha Borinelli is fondly remembered for her fighting spirit: ‘Yeah, I’m Noongar. And I’m a strong Noongar’.

Martha Borinelli was born at Mogumber, north of Perth, but she spent much of her life in the New Norcia district. Martha’s father was a Noongar serviceman, working as a coastguard during the Second World War. (See War Service) Martha’s grandmother, Katie Dimer, was a strong Noongar woman and Martha’s role model. Martha used to call her ‘Nan Storeplace’ because whenever her family was hungry, Nan Taylor always had food.

At the age of five, whilst visiting her sister, Martha was accidentally admitted to New Norcia Mission where she remained for 10 years. There, she had to work at cooking, washing and ironing for the boys. Later in life, Martha was a member of the New Norcia Aboriginal Corporation, which completed a number of heritage projects recognising Noongar history in the area. The committee is still active today.

Martha enjoyed taking her children into the bush to get carnas and bardis, and liked to sit with her family, telling stories. She felt that stories – told by her grandmother and her parents, and retold to her own family – was a big part of keeping her Noongar identity strong.

Martha Borinelli was determined to maintain that identity. She spoke of having a sense of humour as a weapon against prejudice and as a form of resistance. How she stood up for her rights and formed a Noongar darts team, which then won every year! As she says in her interview before she passed away:  ‘I didn’t want to be under some white men, white person’s thumb all my life’.


Martha Borinelli talks about escaping the mission and going bush

Martha Borinelli nee Taylor talks about how the Government gathered Noongars together at New Norcia and Moore River Native Settlement during WWII

Martha Borinelli talks about setting up an Aboriginal dart team

Martha Borinelli talks about the Noongar culture of sharing

Martha Borinelli talks about eating bush food as a child

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