Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks was an Aboriginal activist, caregiver, a nun and a movie star.

The family of the deceased activist has given permission to use her picture.

After an inspiring and varied career, Mrs. Kunoth-Monks died at Alice Springs Hospital, aged 85.

Arrernte and the Anmatjerre woman – who was born in Utopia, north of Alice Springs – was known as an outspoken advocate for indigenous peoples.

Her passion for improving the lives of Aboriginal Australians led her to become a political adviser, a shire president, an environmentalist, an interpreter and a political candidate.

Ms Kunoth-Monks received several awards during her lifetime, including a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1993, and was named Northern Territory Australian of the Year in 2015.

She attracted national attention when she gave a touching speech on Q&A in 2014, rejecting claims that indigenous peoples did not collaborate with non-indigenous peoples to try to improve their quality of life.

Speaking in English and her native Arrente, Mrs. Kunoth-Monks said, “Do not try to oppress me and do not call me a problem. I am not the problem.”

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Ms Kunoth-Monks was born in 1937 at a stream at Utopia Station in the central Australian desert.

At the age of only 16, she was asked to star in the 1955 Australian classic film Jeddah.

A young Rosalie Kunoth-Monks in the 1955 film 'Jedda', the first Australian film shot in color.
A young Rosalie Kunoth monk in the 1955 film Jeddah.(Delivered)

The character of Jedda was a young Aboriginal orphan, raised by a white woman who was unable to have her own children.

It was the first Australian film to be shot in color and the first Australian film to be screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Ms Kunoth-Monks was also a main character in the 2013 documentary Utopia, directed by John Pilger.

However, she did not pursue a career on the big screen.

A black-and-white movie poster showing a felled native man and the self-proclaimed character, Jedda, hiding behind a tree.
Jeddah was marketed as the world’s first look at the original Australian culture.(Delivered: Columbia Pictures)

In her late teens, she moved to Melbourne, where she threw herself into her work as a nun and later opened the first Aboriginal hostel in Victoria.

But homesickness set in, and years later she left the convent.

Shortly thereafter, she met the man she would later marry, Bill Monks, and returned to the Northern Territory.

There, she had two failed attempts at politics: for the CLP in the Northern Territory election in 1980 and as a candidate for the First Nations party in the Senate in 2013.

Ms Kunoth-Monks fought against the Howard Government’s Northern Territory Intervention, branding it dehumanizing and calling for control to return to local communities.

She also wanted the use of BasicsCard to stop.

The respected activist spent his last years continuing the struggle for his people in Utopia.

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