Rosalie Kunoth-Monks

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Rosalie Kunoth-Monks in 1955

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks (also known as Ngarla Kunoth, born 1937) is an Australian film actress, Aboriginal activist and politician.

Early life and education[edit]

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks speaking at the world premiere of Jedda in Darwin in 1950

Rosalie Kunoth was born in 1937 at Utopia Cattle Station (Arapunya) in the Northern Territory of Australia to parents of the Amatjere people. Her paternal grandfather was German, hence her German surname.[1]

In 1951, Kunoth was 14 years old and staying at St Mary's Hostel in Alice Springs when the filmmakers Charles and Elsa Chauvel recruited her to play the title role in their 1955 film Jedda.[2] Her nickname was Rosie, but the Chauvels changed her name for the screen to Ngarla Kunoth.[2][3]

Kunoth was the first Indigenous female lead. The groundbreaking film was played for audiences at the Cannes Film Festival 60 years later in 2015.[4]

In 1970 she married Bill Monks, settled in Alice Springs and had a daughter, Ngarla.[1]

Career as an activist and politician[edit]

Rosalie Kunoth spent ten years from 1960 as a nun in the Melbourne Anglican Community of the Holy Name. She then left the order, married and started work with the department of Aboriginal Affairs, setting up the first home in Victoria for Aboriginal children.[1][5]

Returning to the Alice Springs region, she worked for Aboriginal Hostels, the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.[5]

The then Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Paul Everingham, appointed her an adviser on Aboriginal affairs. Kunoth stood for election to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in 1979. She campaigned to oppose the proposed construction of a dam that threatened to destroy land sacred to her people. She lost that election but went on to continuing activism working to improve the lives of indigenous people. Presently she is Chancellor of the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.[1]

By 2008 she had returned to the Utopia homelands, 260k north east of Alice Springs. They have about 1200 people in 16 different communities. Since 2008 she has been president of Barkly Shire.[6] In August of that year she went to Canberra for Amnesty International and denounced Federal government intervention in the Northern Territory as a "huge violation of human rights", displacing "more indigenous people from their traditional lands, depriving them of opportunities to speak their native language and severing links with [their] culture. … Our beings are very fragile. We disagree with being herded by the army into the big centres."[7]

Two months later: "It's not that they're coming here with bulldozers or getting the army to move us. It's that they're trying to starve us out of our home. … They won't support us becoming sustainable in our own right. If you're made to feel a second-class humanity, if it's not ethnic cleansing, please let me know what is." Utopia, which is world-famous for its dot paintings, was trying to start its own cattle business and wanted to be a cultural centre, she said.[8]

At the 2013 federal election, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks stood unsuccessfully as a Senate candidate in the Northern Territory on behalf of the First Nations Political Party.[9]

In November 2014, Kunoth-Monks was a significant influence in bringing together with Tauto Sansbury a national gathering of Indigenous leaders to unite in the '"fight" for their lands – the "Freedom Movement" – in Alice Springs.[10]

In November 2015, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks was the subject of a tribute song on social media reported on NITV News as "Inspiring song celebrates Indigenous activist Rosalie Kunoth-Monks".[11]



  • 8 March 2007 (International Women's Day) – Kunoth-Monks was presented with a "Northern Territory Tribute to Women Award" at the opening of the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame in Alice Springs.
  • 26 June 2014 - Kunoth-Monks won the Dr. Mandawuy Yunupingu Human Rights Award at the first ever National Indigenous Human Rights Awards[12]
  • 26 January 2015 - Kunoth-Monks was a finalist for Australian of the Year after being awarded Northern Territorian of the Year[13]
  • 10 July 2015 - Kunoth-Monks was awarded NAIDOC Person of the Year during the NAIDOC Week celebrations[14]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d TV program script of interview with Kunoth-Monks, "Biography: Rosalie Kunoth-Monks". National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
  2. ^ a b Lockwood, Douglas (1970) We, the Aborigines, Walkabout Pocketbooks
  3. ^ "Arunta Tribe Girl Star". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 30 July 1953. p. 6. Retrieved 18 November 2012.
  4. ^ "Jedda returns to the Cannes Film Festival". SBS News. 2015.
  5. ^ a b Whennan, Irene. "Report to Marion Council, SA on the Australian Local Government Women's Association Conference 2009" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 May 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  6. ^ ABC News 17 November 2008. "Central Australian shires elect presidents". Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  7. ^ The Age, Melbourne, 10 August 2011, p. 5. Film star turned politician blasts intervention
  8. ^ The Age, Melbourne, 10 October 2010, p. 7. Conditions in Utopia devastating, says Amnesty chief
  9. ^ "Respect and listen". Retrieved 23 August 2013.
  10. ^ ABC News 25 November 2014. "First People's freedom summit".
  11. ^
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ [2]
  14. ^ [3]