Rosalie Kunoth-Monks

Speaker Bio Rosalie Kunoth-Monks

Rosalie Kunoth was born in 1937 at Utopia Cattle Station (Urapuntja) 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] 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]

2014 NT Australian of the Year

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]

Rosalie Kunoth-Monks was the 2015 NAIDOC person of the year.