top of page

Australia Lost A National Treasure Rosalie Kunoth Monks


Australia today lost a National Treasure and Aboriginal Australians one of their greatest warrior women with the passing of Rosalie Kunoth Monks OAM. She was 85 years old.

Her family wanted Indigenous media to know that Rosalie died peacefully in Alice Springs hospital this afternoon (26th January 2022) surrounded by family. She had suffered several strokes and was evacuated from Utopia to Alice Springs late yesterday.

In an extraordinary life of service to her people, the Arrente/Anmatjere woman was a veteran of more than sixty years in the Aboriginal Struggle.

In 1953 as a teenager, she became the first Aboriginal female to star in a leading film role when director Charles Chauvel cast her in JEDDA alongside the late Robert Tudawalli. To this day people in the bush communities and town camps would playfully call her by that name Jedda.

Her ten years as an Anglican nun in Melbourne and her time establishing the first Aboriginal Hostel in Victoria influenced her lifelong commitment to social work of many kinds. She campaigned for better housing, medical care and education for all Indigenous Australians.

In 1970 she married Bill Monks and their daughter, Ngarla Kunoth-Monks followed in her parent’s footsteps, as did the grandchildren, Amelia and Ruby, all committed to social justice and direct action at the community level.

On the ABC television Program, Q&A, she famously rejected the suggestion that Aborigibnal people needed to be assimilated, saying “I am not the problem…I am a woman of culture.”

As Chancellor of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education and through her support for remote schooling in language, she raised her voice to improve educational opportunities for Indigenous children everywhere.

Rosalie served as President of the Barkly Shire in the Northern Territory and several times entered the arena as a Northern Territory candidate for political office.

After the Northern Territory Intervention by the federal government in 2007, Kunoth-Monks was fiercely opposed to the imposition of federal leases and the many discriminatory measures targeting only Aboriginal people in those 73 remote communities.

With the Reverend Djiniyini Gondara, the Yolgnu leader from Elcho island, she travelled to Geneva and testified before the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. During the emergency phase of the Intervention, she travelled the country speaking out against the discriminatory measures.

At the age of 76, Rosalie Kunoth Monks tried to rally her people by campaigning in the Northern Territory for the fledgling FIRST NATIONS PARTY.

Even at the end of her life she told friends and family that Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people had “no real voice” in Australia and “a Treaty was the key to genuine Land Rights and a new beginning”.

Rosalie was born at was born at Artekerre soak on Utopia station…in 1937 to Allan (Arrernte) and Ruby Kunoth, who eastern Anmatjere. The name Kunoth came from her German grandfather.

She is survived by her daughter Ngarla, and granddaughters, Amelia and Ruby, as well as extended family in Alice Springs and at Utopia.


bottom of page