(1935 - 2021)

Barbara Stephen was dedicated to Montessori education as a vehicle for social justice. A passionate advocate for public education, community engagement and Montessori Indigenous education, Barbara obtained her AMI 3–6 diploma in 1962 and devoted her life to promoting the wellbeing of children across all cultures. Barbara was a pioneer of the Montessori movement in Australia.

Barbara was an inspiration for all of us in the Montessori world. She was the silent, lonely warrior woman with a vision, that Montessori education, should be free to all. Our Friend, Barbara, lived in Redfern for 20yrs, where she had developed a healthy relationship with the Indigenous Community.

Murawina, an Early Childhood Centre in Redfern, provided a Montessori space which Barbara had set up for the children of Murrawina. Later, the Aboriginal Housing Company provided a space below Eloura, the Tony Mundine Gym on the Block. It was the tiniest Prepared Environment for no more than five or six children working comfortably.

Barbara believed Dr. Maria Montessori's philosophy was closely related to the early childhood rearing of First Nation People. Barbara gained the support and respect from families because of her dedication to their children. She began Gamarada Montessori Playgroup at Redfern Public School. In Eora, Gamarada means “Friend”. Barbara was involved in campaigning to save Redfern Public School; the school was not saved but eventually has become the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence.  She also campaigned to save the Redfern Community Centre.

Barbara was a member of the Redfern Residents for Reconciliation and attended the meetings of the Women’s Reconciliation Network.

In 2003, Barbara was awarded ‘Citizen of the Year’ by South Sydney Council for her tireless contribution not only to local early childhood education but also to the community at large.