Family calls for answers

Geoff VivianMidwest Times
Minnie Ring's daughter Betty and granddaughter Hazel outside their Rangeway home.
Camera IconMinnie Ring's daughter Betty and granddaughter Hazel outside their Rangeway home. Credit: The Mid West Times

A well-known Geraldton Aboriginal family whose ancestor was buried in Karrakatta Cemetery without their knowledge and consent has been told they would have to pay the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board $4021 to have her remains exhumed.

Hazel Kelly said she had spent about 16 years pursuing the story of her grandmother, Minnie Ring, who was buried in a pauper’s grave with two elderly men in the 1950s.

“Mum didn’t even know she had passed away for three weeks or a month — it was too late to bring Nanna home,” she said.

Hazel Kelly said Minnie Ring died aged 52 at Claremont Mental Hospital of a blood clot on her brain.

Minnie Ring had seven living children at the time who were not informed of their mother’s death and the family was still trying to find out who was responsible.

“It’s not good enough — it’s wrong and we need answers,” Hazel Kelly said.

She said it took her 11 years to locate the grave and she had been gradually piecing the details of her grandmother’s life and death.

According to her research, Minnie was born at Turkey Creek in the East Kimberley about 1902 to a full-blood Kija woman named Maggie and a white stockman named Stretch. He sent the child away with two other children — her brother Owen and cousin Peggy — in February 1905 and they were settled in the Swan orphanage.

After she turned 16, Minnie worked at the then-Dirk Hartog Island pastoral station and later married George Ring and made a life in Geraldton. Her daughter Betty Kelly remembers Minnie as a woman who took good care of her children. She has fond memories of her mother making damper for her family at their home in the formerGeraldton Native Reserve.

Hazel Kelly said she obtained permission from the families of the two other men in the grave and from the relevant funeral directors to exhume her grandmother’s remains. She said the family was raising funds to give her grandmother a funeral in Geraldton.

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