TRADITIONAL CEREMONY: A smoking ceremony is performed as Bundjalung Elder Aunty Bertha Kapeen's casket is taken out of Ballina's St Mary's Anglican Church on March 3.
TRADITIONAL CEREMONY: A smoking ceremony is performed as Bundjalung Elder Aunty Bertha Kapeen's casket is taken out of Ballina's St Mary's Anglican Church on March 3. Graham Broadhead

Community farewells Aunty Bertha Kapeen

"SHE was a pretty extraordinary woman who lived a pretty extraordinary life."

The loving words from one of Aunty Bertha Kapeen's eldest grandchildren encapsulated how most will remember the much-loved Bundjalung Elder.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith, Mayor David Wright and indigenous artist Digby Moran were among nearly 1000 mourners who packed St Mary's Church in Ballina today to farewell the community leader.

Many tributed Aunty Bertha as a champion of indigenous education who had an unwavering commitment to community initiatives.

In the eulogy, David Kapeen paid homage to his mother's passion for teaching underpinned by Aboriginal tradition.

"This lady also knew that the system had to understand that we had a unique way of learning one that was here for thousands of years," Mr Kapeen said.

"An education that would pave the way for fairness and equity."

Mr Kapeen called his mother was a "special lady" who helped drive better health care, housing, business and employment opportunities for her people.

"She was involved, she didn't say "you people need to do this" she just did it," Mr Kapeen said.

Ballina Mayor David Wright honoured the 82-year-old as "a remarkable person" who worked closely with the council to ensure the indigenous community's needs were met.

In everything Aunty Bertha did, Aunty Thelma Crummy highlighted she did it with respect and care for all people.

Her son reinforced the love his mother showed to all she met.

"Once you met her you met her you became part of her family no matter what your language or culture," Mr Kapeen said.

But it was her family Aunty Bertha cherished most as a mother of eight, grandmother to 30 and great-grandmother to 23.

In a teary tribute, grand-daughter Alkirra Kapeen couldn't thank her grandmother enough for supporting her through school and in raising her son, Jake.

A shoulder to cry on, a voice of reason and authority when they "mucked up" was how one grandchild remembered his loving nan.

He said the grandchildren and great-grandchildren would continue their nan's work.

"Your legacy lives through us," he said.

A smoking ceremony was performed as Aunty Bertha's coffin left the church.



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