State recognises indigenous woman's achievements on honour roll

AN indigenous woman who dedicated much of her life to helping the community has been recognised by being added to the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll. 

Valmai Heap was one of 14 indigenous Victorians who were added to the honour roll in a special ceremony on Monday night.

Valmai was the administrator of the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative and was the first Aboriginal person to be employed by Museum Victoria, where she worked to promote recognition of Aboriginal women.

She was also the chair of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Advisory Committee and the first female Aboriginal member of the Victorian Planning Appeals Board.

Valmai’s daughter Karen Heap said her mother had achieved a lot in the short time she lived in the Ballarat area after moving back to Australia the early 1980s having lived in New Zealand for almost 20 years.

“She was close to the Ballarat community and I think she was respected by them,” Karen said. 

“I think that is really important.

“People still talk about her to me today, so she is remembered and they hold a regard for her.”

Valmai lived in Clunes and died in 1991.

Karen has followed in her mother’s footsteps in trying to help the community and is now the chief executive of the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative. 

“In essence, I try to take on her strengths, I suppose, in her belief in serving the community,” she said. 

“I work for the community and I don’t work for my pay each week, it is about what I can do for the community and achieve in the community which my mother was adamant about.” 

Vilmai was posthumously inducted to the Hepburn Shire Council Women’s 

Honour Roll in 2012.

Karen said she wasn’t sure how her mother would have reacted to receiving the latest honour. 

“I was a bit worried about what she would think.

“ I think my mother would not have been open to it if she was alive. She wasn’t that sort of person,” she said. 

“She was the achiever behind the achievements.”

matthew.dixon@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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