Barbara Stephen – 1935 -2021
Barbara lived at Redfern for about 16 years and devoted herself in local community activities and needs. This came about after she retired from teaching in her 60s and wanted to contribute as a volunteer.
She assisted with Aboriginal education mainly through playgroups using the Montessori philosophy of education which is really co-operative learning, and it was said that this way of teaching suits Aboriginal children’s style of learning. She set up play groups her idea being to assist children to have early childhood education that would help them to love learning and to have a better start at formal schooling. She would visit families involved in the playgroups believing in the value of good relationships.
Another significant involvement was her involvement in campaigning to save Redfern Public School; the school was not saved but eventually has become the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence.
Redfern Residents for Reconciliation also had Barbara as a member while it functioned, and in recent years Barbara did attend the meetings of the Women’s Reconciliation Network. Aunty Ali Golding shared her appreciation of Barbara’s involvement in Aboriginal family’s lives on a number of occasions, at the meetings.
Redfern Community Centre was a factory which residents, including Barbara, campaigned to have rescued from demolition and it eventually became a centre which has become very significant in the local community, hosting all kinds of activities and happenings.
In 2003 Barbara was named Citizen of the Year by the South Sydney Council in recognition for her contributions to the local community.