50 Amazing Tidda Queens
Strong women are so important for our next generation of girls. How can Indigenous and Non-Indigenous girls alike strive for success if they cannot look up and see strong and proud women who have overcome barriers to be successful in their chosen field or in times past survived insurmountable odds to survive?
These women are role models for our daughters, they show through fortitude and belief in themselves that they can achieve. This possibility can fuel a young woman to believe they can be whoever they want to be. When we see other women surviving and thriving we are optimistic about our own potential.
This article has been a labour of love, researching these women has fuelled in us the need to promote and create the Tidda Queen almanac. We need our daughters to hear about strong women each and every day. We are proud to present the first 50 Tidda Queens, though this is just the start.
Born in 1812, In Tasmania, she was part of the local Indigenous group who were moved from their land to the Aboriginal settlement, Flinders Island during the European invasion of Australia.
Truganinin was also baptised with a different name, Lallah Rookh, because of the “Europeanization” of Australia.
It was believed she gave birth to a daughter, Louisa Esmai.
She died on May 8, 1876, at the age of 64. Against her wishes, her skeleton was placed on public display at the Tasmanian Museum in 1904.
However, in April 1976, despite the hurdles she experienced even upon her death, her last wishes were met when her remains were cremated and scattered in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.
2. Gladys Elphick
An Aboriginal community leader who was an active member of Aborigines Advancement League of South Australia, who organised social and sports events.
Gladys also was the founder and long running president of the Council of Aboriginal Women of South Australia. Through this organisation, she aimed to heighten the position of the Indigenous people in the community. In 1977, Gladys also founded the Aboriginal Medical Service.
‘Aunty Glad’ Elphick, a highly respected Elder in the Aboriginal community, was named as South Australian Aboriginal of the Year in 1984. Four years later, on 19 January 1988, she passed and was buried in the Centennial Park Cemetery.
3. Fanny Cochrane Smith
Fanny Cochrane Smith was an Aboriginal Tasmanian leader and Indigenous cultural identity who was born in early December 1834.
At a young age of 12, she was already working as a domestic servant.
In 1876, Fanny asserted herself as the last remaining Tasmanian Aboriginal.
She and her husband, William Smith were one of the early converts to Methodism.
One of her contributions to Aboriginal cultural preservation is the wax cylinder recordings of her speaking and singing in early Tasmanian Aboriginal language.
This was the only valuable authentication of the Tasmanian Aboriginal song and speech.
On 24 February 1905, Fanny passed of pneumonia and pleurisy.
4. Joyce Clague
Joyce Clague was one of the most determined Aboriginal political activists of our time.
At a young age, she showed her defiance of the “erasure” of Indigenous culture by continuing to use her mother tongue, the Yagal language.
Joyce Clague was one of the most significant figures in influencing the 1967 Constitutional Referendum.
In the campaign, also known as the “YES” vote, Joyce encouraged many non-Indigenous groups to register and vote for an inclusive society.
Her tenacity and bravery advanced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people. She is an admired Tidda Queen to all Indigenous communities due to her tireless work for social change.
5. Kirstie Parker
Strong and proud Aboriginal woman Kristie Parker is a Yuwallarai woman from the northwest of New South Wales.
Kirstie has had some amazing distinctions through her tireless work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Kirstie is the current CEO of the National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (NCIE). Before her current position, she was the co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
She was also a former editor of the Koori Mail, a 100% Aboriginal owned newspaper.
Kirstie is a Director of Reconciliation Australia, an independent, not-for-profit Australian institution that promotes reconciliation through relationship building, respect and trust between the non-Aboriginals and the indigenous people.
Kirsite was named NSW Woman of the Year -- Aboriginal Woman of the Year category in 2016.
6. Shirley Colleen Smith
Famously known as “Mum Shirl,” Shirley Coleen Smith was an outstanding social worker and philanthropist who was dedicated to justice and welfare of all indigenous Australians.
Mum Shirl was one of the founding members on some of the most important Indigenous advocacy, health and social welfare boards, such as the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, the Aboriginal Children’s Service and the Aboriginal Housing Company.
Her advocacy in social welfare was focused on visiting Aboriginal prisoners, seeking shelter for children whose parents were unable to support them, and reuniting children with their parents from the stolen generation.
A story of how Shirley came to be know to all as "Mum Shirl" was that when she used to visit prisoners the guards would ask how she knew that particular prisoner.....she would say she was their mum and she would then be allowed to visit.
In 1990, Mum Shirl was named Aboriginal of the Year by NAIDOC. Mum Shirl passed on 28 April 1998.
7. Evelyn Scott
Evelyn Ruth Scott was an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social activist and educator. Evelyn is also Téa Devow's great Aunty.
Evelyn started her social justice career when she served on the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League during the 60s.
She was highly involved in the crusade for the 1967 Constitutional Referendum. Evelyn went on to be the vice president of FCAATSIm Federal Council for the advancement of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders; she pushed for FCAATSI to become an Indigenous-regulated association.
In the same period, Evelyn became active in the National Aboriginal and Islander Council. It was the first national Indigenous women’s organisation.
In the 90s, Evelyn was the governing head of the National Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.
Sadly, Evelyn passed on 21 September 2017 at the age of 81.
8. Dr Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher
Dr Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher, Thanakupi, or wattle flower, was her away, or birth ritual name.
At an early age, Thancoupie learned the sacredness of clay as she saw men in her tribe keep mud in a unique storehouse where kids were not allowed.
This made Fletcher recognise the clay’s spiritual connection to her culture, land, and language. Her interest with clay helped her become the first Aboriginal ceramic artist.
Her early years were spent as a pre-school teacher and part-time artist, and it was not until 1969, when in her mid-thirties, that she gathered the courage to move from her remote home in the Cape to the urban environment of East Sydney Technical College.
Dr Thancoupie, together with Tiwi potter Eddy Puruntatamerri, founded the Indigenous ceramic movement of Australia. Her intricately designed ceramic sculptures told old people’s stories from Weipa.
As a community leader she founded the Weipa Festival, and inspired many generations by running holiday programs to teach bush knowledge and art to younger generations
She was the first indigenous artist to have an international solo exhibition. Because of her artistic achievements, she was awarded Order of Australia in 2005.
9. Faith Thomas
Faith was a former cricketer, hockey player, and nurse.
She was the first Aboriginal woman to represent Australia in cricket.
She was also the first Aboriginal woman chosen in any national sporting team.
She was a superwoman as she was able to manage her cricket career while preparing to become a nurse in Adelaide.
Aside from having a successful sports path, Faith was the first Aboriginal to finish and become a certified nurse from the Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Aside from being a successful cricket player, Thomas was also an outstanding hockey player, where she admitted that this sport has always been more important to her than cricket.
Because of Faith Thomas’ excellent sporting achievements, she became a member of the Aboriginal Sports Foundation. Faith is a proud Adnyamathanha women.
10. Rosalie “Ngarla” Kunoth-Monks
Rosalie is an Arrernte and Amatjerre woman born in Utopia, north of Alice Springs, in 1937.
Rosalie was an actress, Aboriginal activist, and a politician.
She became famous for her role in Jedda, making her the first Indigenous female lead.
Jedda was the first Australian film to be featured in Cannes. Jedda was also the first Australian film released in colour.
Making the film was an experience that would furthermore spark her advocacy in Aboriginal rights as the movie empowered her to stand up for her and her people’s freedom against the colonial outlook against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.
She has tirelessly fought for Indigenous rights, even going as far as trying to become part of the government by running as a Senate candidate in 2013.
11. Nova Peris
Nova is a famous Indigenous Australian athlete and activist.
She was a representative in the Australian Women's Hockey in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
She became the first Aboriginal Australian woman to become a successful athlete after winning an Olympic gold medal.
She proved to be a multi talented sporting star when she chose to switch to another sport, sprint, winning her another medal in 1997.
In 2013, she switched gears and changed careers to politics after being invited by Julia Gillard to join the Australian Labor Party, where she became a candidate for the Senate.
She reached another major milestone for the indigenous community when she was elected to the federal government, making her the first Indigenous woman to be elected to national parliament.
Nova is also Téa Devow's Godmother.
12. The Hon. Linda Burney
Linda was the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representative in 2016 and was the first Aboriginal person to serve in the New South Wales Parliament.
Linda is of Wiradjuri descent, she began her career as a public school teacher in western Sydney in 1979. During the mid-80s, she became involved in the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group.
She was an active contributor to the development of the first Aboriginal educational policy in Australia.
Linda was also an executive member of the National Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, President of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group and the former Director General of the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
13. Patricia June "Pat" O'Shane
Pat O'shane is from the Kunjandji clan and was the first Aboriginal magistrate to serve in Sydney’s Local Court from 1986 until her retirement in 2013.
Patricia O’ Shane has reached great feats as a strong and proud Aboriginal women. Pat was the first Aboriginal woman to graduate with a law degree. She also became the first Aboriginal lawyer.
In one of the most defining moments of her career, she was the first Indigenous person to be the head of the New South Wales Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.
In 2001, Pat O’ Shane was awarded Centenary Medal for her exceptional duty in the Australian society and higher education.
She was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Leadership at the Deadly Awards in 2013.
14. Eleanor Harding
Eleanor Harding hailed from the Torres Strait Islands. Eleanor is also Téa's Great Aunty.
She was a civil rights activist who stood up for the improvement of recognition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Eleanor highly upheld women's rights and aimed for equal opportunities for education for indigenous people.
She also worked with different institutions to bring about reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
She urged for the enactment of the Aboriginal Australian Referendum of 1967, which in turn rectified the Constitution of Australia.
Eleanor was a member of the National Aboriginal and Islander's Women's Council. She advocated the Abschol movement that aimed to provide an educational scholarship scheme for Indigenous students.
Harding passed in Melbourne on 14 June 1996 and was buried on Darnley Island.
15. Essie Coffey - the Bush Queen
Essie Coffey or Essienina Shillingsworth was a Muruwari woman.
She co-founded the Western Aboriginal Legal Service and served in Aboriginal community groups and government organisations.
These government groups include the Aboriginal Lands Trust and the Aboriginal Advisory Council.
She was an initial member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, the group that established the non-profit and non-government foundation, Reconciliation Australia which promotes continuity of national focus for the accord between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
She was also one of the founders of the Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Museum.
A very talented Tidda, Essie was also a filmmaker. Her 1978 film, "My Survival as an Aboriginal," was given to Queen Elizabeth II as a gift at the declaration of Australia's New Parliament House in 1988.
16. Faith Bandler
Faith Bandler was a fearless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander civil rights activist.
During the 1950s, Faith became involved in the peace movement, and in 1956 she was the driver in setting up the Australian Aboriginal Fellowship.
Like the other women activist mentioned earlier, she was also best known for her participation in leading the campaign for the "YES" vote or the 1967 referendum for Aboriginal Australians.
Faith was also a founding representative of the Federal Council for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, being an active participant from 1967 to 1973.
Faith passed at the age of 96, in February 2015,
17. Pearl Gibbs
Pearl Gibbs was an Indigenous Australian activist and one of the most prominent female activist within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander movement in the early 20th century.
She was a member of the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA) and was involved with various protest events such as the 1938 Day of Mourning.
Tirelessy supporting and advocating for Indigenous people, Gibbs in the 1930's helped run camps to support unemployed Aboriginal workers, and in 1933 she organised a strike for Aboriginal pea-pickers.
Pearl was the first Aboriginal women to make a radio broadcast in 1941.
In 1946 along with Indigenous community member William Ferguson they established a chapter of Australian Aborigines League in Dubbo
She stayed politically active until the 70s where she built valuable connections between Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander communities and forward political bodies to advance the issues facing Indigenous people.
Gibbs passed in Dubbo in 1983.
18. Rachel Perkins
Rachel is a film and TV director, producer and screenwriter.
An Arrente woman hailing from Central Australia, she created Blackfella Films, a production company which produces documentaries and narratives for television, live theatre, and online platforms. Her areas of focus are on Indigenous Australian stories.
One of her most significant works, the seven-part documentary series First Australians, is a multi-awarded production.
Rachel was the Commissioner with the Australian Film Commission from 2004 to 2008.
She also has been on the Board of the Screen Australia since 2009.
From 2015, Perkins has held the role as the president of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) Foundation. This foundation aims to raise funds and secure the future of the world's largest and significant collection of Indigenous Australian culture.
19. Megan Davis
Megan is one amazing Tidda Queen!
She's one of the brave Aboriginal activists who continue to stand up for the rights of her fellow Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.
A human rights lawyer, a commissioner of the NSW Land and Environment court, a law professor and a proud Cobble Cobble Aboriginal women.
Her most important achievement to date is her appointment as Chair of a UN permanent forum. Her UN appointment made her the first Indigenous Australian to ever sit in a UN body.
Megan's current area of focus are the area's of sentencing laws, Constitutional Design and Deliberation; and Violence against Aboriginal Women
20. Dr Anita Heiss
One of Téa&Belle's favourite Tidda Queens, Dr Anita Heiss is an Australian author and a creative writer working with a wide ranges themes and topics.
An advocate of Indigenous literature, she’s also a mentor and role model for the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy, an Advocate for the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and lastly an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador.
Anita is a proud Wiradjuri women from central NSW,
Anita has a PhD In Communications and Media from the University of Western Sydney.
This year, Anita was appointed to the State Library of Queensland board.
21. Bronwyn Bancroft
Bronwyn Bancroft is a notable Aboriginal artists and was the first Australian fashion designer ever to be invited to showcase her designs in Paris.
She also promoted other Aboriginal artworks when she opened a fabric store in 1985 where Aboriginal artists-made materials where showcased.
Bronwyn was one of 10 urban artists who founded the Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, in 1987.
During the 1990s, she twice served on the board of National Gallery of Australia.
Bronwyn became the Chair of the Visual Arts Board of the NSW Ministry for the Arts. Bancroft's philanthropic goals include being the director of the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience AIME a not-for-profit organisation aiming to increase senior high school and university admission rates for Indigenous students.
22. Emily Kame Kngwarreye
Internationally Acclaimed artist, Emily hailed from the Utopia community in the Northern Territory.
She’s one of the most significant contemporary Australian artists.
Although she started late with painting, she was a creative artist who didn't rush her work and worked at a pace that would contradict her old age.In eight years, she's painted 3000 paintings or an average of one-painting a day.
Just like many other Aboriginal artists, her paintings focused on the cultural life as an Anmatyerre elder.
In the 90s, she's had two one-woman shows, and received government fellowship in 1992.
Her painting, "The Earth's Creation" was purchased for the Mbantua Gallery & Cultural Museum for $1,056,000, a record for her Aboriginal artwork.
Despite the money she made as an artist, she's continued to live a traditional life and shared her wealth with her community.
Emily passed away on the 2nd of September 1996.