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Murrie Kemp is a man from a small community with a towering vision. One that will re-write what an indigenous community can be, both in the eyes of who live there and those who write the policy in Canberra.
When you meet Murrie Kemp, you’re immediately struck by the full force of his pride, as you listen to his towering words constructing great landscapes of possibility at your feet.
Hailing from tiny Woorabinda, Murrie walks with feet planted in two worlds, both down the corridors of influence in Canberra, and the other in the verdant fields of the Central Queensland community that birthed him. He, with great vigour, endeavours to ensure that the steps on one path will enable movement in the other.
His plans for the future stem from the past, as Murrie looks to build on the foundation established by his father, himself the community chairman of Woorabinda, who successfully implemented a series of macro programs that reversed the meta societal problems, positively impacting the damage that troubled youth and directionless adults brought to their small community.
Murrie’s vision is to take it further, building a utopia of self-sustainability, a community that lives off its own profit, completely outside government funding. A titanic task, certainly – but it’s one that dances to the beat of Murrie’s infectious tone, in his own words: “…to see change on a much larger scale, to follow in the footsteps of my father, grandfathers…to help, and to prove that we Blackfellas, we can do anything.”
He looks to rewrite the concept of the Indigenous community in the definition that his people desire. In discussing the implementation of a large jail instead of further education or health facilities, his voice booms, painting a strong hue of disgust, stating: “…things are put up without asking what we want. No-one receives any cultural training…I’m looking to change that with our community.”
He is enthusiastically tied to those who have come before him, as Murrie represents the latest stop in his ancestral line, much like his grandfather, and father before him, he looks to continue the development of bush medicine, something that plays a large part in Murrie’s vision, stating that “I’m carrying on that legacy, looking to find a cure for chronic illnesses for our people.”
Murrie is a graduate of Shalom Gamarada, a scholarship program that provides residency on campus for Indigenous students, one that enormously swells the enormous heart of the man himself in recollection. “I was amazed, I really thought I had no chance (to win the scholarship).” The years that program enabled, allowed Murrie to not just complete his Bachelor of Exercise Physiology, but also to forge deeply personal bonds that exist beyond graduation. To that end, he holds particular reverence toward Dr Hilton Immerman, OAM, previous Shalom CEO, who awarded him the scholarship. A memory that enables that symphonic baritone of pride: “I was with Shalom from the start of my degree…I respect Hilton so much for taking me in, and the support and respect he gives to blackfellas. He is one of my idols.”
As further evidence to the strength of the bond, Murrie celebrated his graduation from UNSW by carving Hilton a woomera in the image of a wedge-tailed Eagle, a strong sign of protection. To Murrie, it was also a token of gratitude: “It was to say thanks. Thanks for doing that for me, and all of us.”
The next step for Murrie is to the familiar landmarks of home, as he hopes to trial his grand vision in Woorabinda. What he faces there are grand interpersonal challenges between two worlds, both in convincing white Australia that his is a viable plan to begin the complex process of healing, and to bridge the gap of feeling and suspicion that Indigenous Australia has of the powers that be.
Murrie faces great obstacles to enable the change he seeks, but as an innately passionate man blessed with that rare combination of believability and drive, you know it’s a matter of not if, but when, with his actions serving as the brushstrokes painting a great mosaic we can all marvel at.
Watch this space.