Please note, this article contains the name and photo of someone who has passed away. This photo has been approved for use by Mrs Lawford-Wolf’s family.
Beginning her life under the shade of a tree in Christmas Creek Station in far-north Kimberley, Wangkatjunka woman, Ningali Lawford-Wolf spent her last days commanding the stage halfway across the world.
A woman who embodied strength, power and beauty, Mrs Lawford-Wolf passed away on Sunday August 11 after falling ill whilst touring Sydney Theatre Company’s (STC) production of The Secret River in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The award-winning actress and Australian icon is most commonly known for her screen roles in Rabbit-Proof Fence, Bran Nue Dae and Last Cab to Darwin.
Mrs Lawford-Wolf began her career dancing with Sydney’s Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre and Bangarra Dance Theatre.
She was a powerful spirit on the stage, winning Greenroom’s Best Actress award for her one-woman show, Ningali in 1994.
Mrs Lawford-Wolf also received awards for her performances in productions such as Aliwa, Uncle Vanya and Jandamarra, and has worked with Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre and Perth’s Black Swan State Theatre Company.
The actress’ relationship with The Secret River began in 2013 when she took on a key role working with Andrew Bovell and Neil Armfield to develop STC’s production.
In its return in 2016, Mrs Lawford-Wolf took the role of narrator – performing at Adelaide Festival in 2017 and Edinburgh International Festival this year.
STC remembers Mrs Lawford-Wolf as one of Australian theatre’s greatest treasures.
“Ningali was an incredible talented performer, as well as a wonderfully caring and thoughtful person,” STC said in a joint statement with Ms Lawford-Wolf’s family.
Mrs Lawford-Wolf spent her life connecting and building relationships between Aboriginal and mainstream Australia with empathy, kindness and love.
MADALAH is a not-for-profit organisation which offers secondary and tertiary education scholarships to First Nations students in remote and regional areas of Western Australia.
Ms Lawford-Wolf was a MADALAH Ambassador, and a powerful role model to students within the MADALAH program.
She also spent time working in Broome and Kalbarri High Schools, offering guidance and support for students to succeed in their education.
Mrs Lawford-Wolf was also a Director at KAPCO – an organisation aimed at empowering First Nations people with training, skills and employment on country.
The organisation oversees four Aboriginal-owned pastoral stations in northern WA.
An influential advocate for First Nations self-determination, Mrs Lawford-Wolf had a strong, powerful connection to her culture.
She shared much knowledge and committed to creating avenues for culture to be heard, learned and respected.
Ms Lawford-Wolf was someone who forged ahead, created a pathway and redefined success for First Nations people.
In everything she did, from her life on the stage, to her work in community, she was bringing her mob with her.
Mrs Lawford-Wolf will live on in her beloved family – her children Jaden, Rosie, Alexander, William and Florence, and her grandchildren, Zavia and Mia.
Mrs Lawford-Wolf started her life in the shade of a tree on Christmas Creek Station and her family hope to bring her home – to rest on the Traditional Country of her ancestors.
A memorial to her life will be held in Broome on Thursday October 3, followed on by a funeral and cultural ceremony at Kupartiya Community, 120km east of Fitzroy Crossing on Saturday October 5.
A fundraising page has been set up to help cover expenses, resources and planning for the events.
To donate to Mrs Lawford-Wolf’s memorial and assist her family during this time, please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/1r0dywq05c?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet.
By Rachael Knowles