Justine Saunders

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Justine Saunders
Justine Saunders in a scene from Number 96.jpg
Justine Saunders as Rhonda in a scene from Number 96
Born Justine Florence Saunders
20 February 1953
Quilpie, Queensland, Australia
Died 15 April 2007(2007-04-15) (aged 54)
Sydney, Australia
Years active 1976–2003
Awards 1992 Red Ochre Award

Justine Florence Saunders, OAM (20 February 1953 – 15 April 2007) was an Australian stage, film and television actress. She was a member of the Woppaburra indigenous people, from the Kanomie clan of Keppel Island in Queensland. She was born next to a railway track. At the age of 11, she was removed from her mother Heather, and taken to Brisbane and placed in a convent. Heather was not told of Justine's whereabouts for more than ten years, and spent much of that time searching for her.


She first came to prominence as a cast member of soap opera Number 96 in 1976, as a character defending the rights of indigenous Australians. Other soap guest roles included that of a flight attendant in Skyways in 1979, and as social worker Pamela Madigan in Prisoner in 1986.

Other television credits include: mini-series Women of the Sun (1981), Farscape, Blue Heelers, and MDA.


Her film work includes The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and The Fringe Dwellers.

National Order of Australia Medal[edit]

Saunders received the inaugaural Aboriginal Artist of the Year award in 1985.[1]

In 1991 Justine Saunders was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), for her services to the performing arts, her services to the National Aboriginal Theatre, and for her assistance in setting up the Black Theatre and the Aboriginal National Theatre Trust.

Personal life[edit]

In 2000, through the indigenous Senator Aden Ridgeway, she returned the medal in protest at the emotional turmoil her mother was suffering over the Howard government's denial of the term "stolen generation".


Saunders died of cancer at Hawkesbury District Hospital, Sydney, aged 54.[2][3]



  1. ^ "Aboriginal award for actress". The Canberra Times. 60, (18,239). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 7 September 1985. p. 3. Retrieved 11 August 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  2. ^ Carman, Gerry (18 April 2007). "A fight against the stereotype". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-04-19. Obituary.
  3. ^ Obituary "Aboriginal actress who broke stereotypes", by Gerry Carman and Pauline Clague, The Age, 17 April 2007.
  4. ^ It's an Honour website
  5. ^ Red Ochre Award

External links[edit]