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It is with deep sadness that we at Ampe-kenhe Ahelhe (Children’s Ground) announce the passing of one of our beloved founding Elders, and one of the most prominent leaders of the Arrernte Nation. Dr MK Turner OAM was an Arrernte Elder, professor, artist, writer, language speaker, teacher, mother, grandmother, family member and friend loved and known by many people.

MK was a founding Director and cultural authority at Children’s Ground. She set the vision for the organisation and held us all to her commitment to First Nations-led education. She was Children’s Ground’s heart, soul, life and love. MK was Children’s Ground and the reason this organisation exists and thrives.

MK held deep knowledge of Arrernte language and culture and dedicated her life to sharing this knowledge with future generations. She passionately believed in the rights of First Nations children to grow up learning their language and culture, and strong and proud in their identity. Her commitment to this was unwavering throughout her remarkable life.

In 1997, she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for her services to the First Nations community of Central Australia; particularly in relation to preserving language and culture and her work as an interpreter. In 2022, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Bachelor Institute for her lifelong commitment to cultural maintenance and languages of Aboriginal peoples, particularly in central Australia. She was also awarded Elder of the Year at the 2022 Mparntwe NAIDOC Celebrations. These were acknowledgements of her lifelong commitment to her community in upholding Arrernte law and knowledge which she did with enormous care and responsibility.

MK has played an important role to many First Nations-led organisations in and around Mparntwe, including the Institute for Aboriginal Development, Irrkerlantye Learning Centre, Yipirinya School and Akeyulerre Healing Centre. Many people know of MK’s work in and around Central Australia, and she championed this work until the very end.

She was a published author, having her books Bush Foods : Arrernte Foods of Central Australia: Nhenhe-areye Anwerne-arle Arlkweme and Iwenhe Tyerrtye : What It Means to Be an Aboriginal Person distributed across the world. She was also instrumental in documenting and recording the critically endangered Akarre-Akityerre languages; the languages of her Country.

We remember MK for her drive, her passion, the depth of her love, her generosity of spirit, her courage, her sense of humour, her sharp wit, and her indomitable leadership. She has left an indelible mark on all of us.