"Mum Shirl" Print Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Peter F Williams

The plaque commemorates  "Mum Shirl" (1924 - 1998) who was a powerful advocate for Aboriginal rights and welfare. She assisted in setting up the Aboriginal Medical and Legal Service in Redfern in the 1970s, visited prisoners in gaols and opened her home to the addicted and homeless. Colleen Shirley Perry Smith, tireless community worker, died on 28 April 1998 aged 73.

The plaque was originally unveiled in 1999 and rededicated in 2008.

Shirley was born on the Erambie Reserve, Cowra, of Wiradjuri descent. She moved with her family to Sydney in the mid 1930s. Not long after the move, one of Shirley’s brothers went to jail. Visiting her brother in jail would start a lifelong and tireless involvement in welfare work. After his release, the New South Wales consorting laws prevented her brother from maintaining contact with his friends in jail, so Shirley continued the visits on his behalf.

Her nickname arose from her habit of replying, "I’m his Mum", whenever officials queried her relationship with the prisoners. Eventually the authorities recognised the value of her support for prisoners and allowed her access to any prisoner she wished to visit. Her caring continued beyond prisons, with many people with no family or friends in Sydney arriving at Mum Shirl’s Redfern house seeking shelter. By the early 1990s she had reared over 60 children.


Address:117 Redfern Street , St Vincent De Paul Catholic Church, Redfern, 2016
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -33.892723
Long: 151.202779
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
View Google Map


Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:People


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Monday 22nd November, 1999
Front Inscription

In celebration of the life of 
Mum Shirl, the black saint of 
Redfern who gave aid and comfort
to all who asked.

A plaque was unveiled on this site by Fr. Ted Kennedy
22nd November 1999

Rededicated by Clover Moore MP, Lord Mayor of Sydney
27th February 2008

City of Sydney

Source: MA,ACPH
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
Proudly sponsored by UBC Web Design