Veronica is an interpreter and teacher of the Arrernte language. She heals her people by applying her cultural knowledge and that of other elders and senior healers in the Arrernte community around Mparntwe (Alice Springs).
Her deep knowledge of Arrernte lands and language enabled her to establish Arrernte as a written language for Indigenous and the wider communities to learn. She has produced educational material to support her teachings.
She worked for 10 years with John Henderson on the Eastern and Central Arrernte to English Dictionary, a comprehensive publication that has been used as a reference and teaching guide.
Veronica is dedicated to continuing culture through going out bush with other elders, to teach medicine and bush skills to children.
“To keep their culture strong, the next generations must have a firm grasp of traditional knowledge,” says Veronica. “If they have to go and live out on land or country, wherever they come from, the knowledge is always there for them.”
“They have to know how to survive on the land and find water or medicine or food. We haven’t survived this long for no reason.”
Veronica was born at Alrtunga in 1944, she spent about 10 years there living in the dorm with the nuns, before the whole mission was moved to Santa Teresa. Veronica had a basic level of education (equivalent to a grade 4-5 education) and most of her training was around domestic service. When she moved to Alice Springs at aged 16 she worked for some of the local white people, cleaning. cooking and caring for their children. She also worked in some of the local factories.
In 1969 she had a child and became a stay at home mother, to keep a bit of extra money coming into the household she took in ironing and cleaned private homes. In the 1980's when her youngest was at school full time she began looking for a job.
Veronica began her career with IAD that had become aware of her language skills and gave her the occasional translating and interpreting jobs. It was not long before Veronica was working full time as an interpreter and translator, teaching languages in schools, interpreting in courts, at the police station and in the hospital. She also started interpreting the CAAMA News and became head of the Interpreting Service.
Veronica is a strong advocate for teaching Aboriginal children Aboriginal language and cultures in schools. She also spent a number of years working on the Early Childhood Curriculum called the Intelyapelyape Akaltye Project.
She also worked on a video called Learning our Way, exploring the benefits of learning Aboriginal language and culture.
Having a passion for Education Veronica continued her work in this area, continuing teaching Arrente course and only retiring in 2014. Over the years she has taught countless numbers of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples the Arrernte language. She was a member of FATSIL and received an award for her 30 years of work with the Arrernte Language. Veronica has also worked to revive some of the sleeping languages.
Veronica has also done extensive work with regards to the environment, working with CSIRO scientists and others on water quality projects, bush fire management projects, the Native Seed Bank, and has contributed to a number of reports on Indigenous Ecology. She also helped establish a bush medicine garden at Olive Pink which has a tribute to her work. On one occasion she made a guest appearance on The Cook and the Chef showing casing Aboriginal foods to Maggie Beer. Veronica’s knowledge of the environment and plants was referred to as the "Arrandic equivalent to a professor of science"
In 2011 she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for services as a linguist, naturalist and ecologist to the Indigenous community. In 2013 she was awarded a awarded the title of Companion of the Charles Darwin University.
In 2014 she began contributing to the development of Alice Springs after receiving a NT Government History Grant.
Veronica has attended and delivered papers at conferences both nationally and internationally, in recent years she attended the WIPCE conference in Peru, and travelled to Canada to deliver a paper at an Indigenous Environmental Conference.
Veronica had been an inspiration and role model too many people both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, people seek her out for language and cultural expertise and knowledge about the environment.
She has inspired her children and grandchildren to embrace their language and culture, something she wishes of Australia's Indigenous future.