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Famous Aborigines

Updated on December 6, 2016

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Aborigines and Heroes

These are eight Australian and Tasmanian Aboriginals that have made a lasting impression on me with their determination to pursue reconciliation of Aborigines and whites through government, first contact interactions, sports, music, fine arts, writing, and acting.

Emily Kame Kngwarreye - Fine Artist

b. 1910 - d. 1996

Emily Kame Kngwarreye was born in Alhalkere and grew up in an isolated desert town among the Aborigines. In the late 1980s she began to paint on canvas and contained the rest of her life. Previously, she had mastered batik and had worked as a livestock hand

As an artist, she worked in her remote region of Central Australia, very hot and dusty, surrounded by camp dogs. She often painted their paw prints in her works. She quickly became a Senior in the Utopian Art Movement, Utopia being her community that produced many Aboriginal artists.

Emily had only a crude studio, under a piece of corrugated steel or a lean-to of tree branches. Self-taught and a primitive style painter, she had been compared to the great masters of fine arts. She painted from her experience and her own particular Dreamtime. In 1993 she won the prestigious Australian Artists Creative fellowship.

When asked to describe her mystic-looking pieces, she said that they were "everything." The style is adapted from sand and body painting used for ceremonies.

Utopia, Northern Territory

A markerUtopia, North Territory -
Utopia, Sandover NT 0872, Australia
get directions

Aboriginal Painting
Aboriginal Painting | Source

A Bungaree Australian Aboriginal Leader

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Source
Source

Neville Bonner - Statesman

b. 1922 - d. 1999

Although Mr. Neville Bonner completed only one year of formal education, he was elected Senator to the Federal Parliament of Australia for Queensland in 1971 and served through 1983. In this position, he strove tirelessly for reconciliation between Aboriginals and other Australians.

In 1979, Senator Bonner became one of three Australians of the Year.

Bonner worked for social reforms and civil rights as soon as he was able to do so. He had lived 16 years on the Palm Island Aboriginal Reserve as an adult. Earlier he lived under a shrub with his mother at his grandparents house and had left as a teenager that was looking for a better life after the female heads died. In the era in which he was born, Aborigines legally had to be out of the city by sunset and back on the reserve and this was repressive. Aborigines could not vote until 1967 and had not been counted in the national census up until that time.

Mr. Bonner crossed the Parliament floor and voted against his own party 23 times for the greater good of the people and finally became an Independent. After serving in congress, he became a board member of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. His written works include Black Power in Australia; Equal World, Equal Share; and For the Love of Children.

Ernie Dingo
Ernie Dingo | Source

Ernie Dingo - Actor

Bron in 1956, this gentleman is form the Oondamooroo tribe in Australia, Ernie Dingo's grandfather was called Dingo Jim, because his occupation was dingo hunter. The whole family decided to take Dingo as their family name.

Dingo began a professional career in the Middar Aboriginal Dance Theatre in 1978 and in television, including comedy, beginning in 1985. He is the Recipient of the Banff Television Festival special prize and the Australian Film Institute Award for 1990.

Mr. Dingo was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1990 for his work.

Ernie Dingo at Message Sticks 2012

Ernie Dingo Films

Ernie Dingo's major films include:

  • Tudawali, 1985;
  • The Fringe Dwellers, 1986;
  • Crocodile Dundee 2, 1988 (as Charlie);
  • State of Shock, 1989;
  • Until the End of the World, 1991;
  • Blackfellas, 1993;
  • Mr. Electric, 1993; and
  • Bran Nue Dae, 2010.

 Cathy Freeman wins Olympic Gold Medal in the women's final 400m during the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics.
Cathy Freeman wins Olympic Gold Medal in the women's final 400m during the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics. | Source

Cathy Freeman - Athlete

b. 1973 as Catherine Astrid Salome Freeman

Track star Cathy Freeman's grandfather, Frank Fisher, had been a rugby player. This set a precedent for sports competition that she pursued with vigor and determination. She was a winner on and off the track, pursuing her dream even though she was plagued by prejudice for her Aboriginal heritage. Cathy had been jeered in school when she won track events against white participants. When She worked for the postal service, some people refused to let her serve them, because of her race. This was the 1980s, but sounds like 1950s America. However, Freeman persevered.

Despite these racially-based atrocities, Freeman pursued track and field and made the Australian Olympic Team. She went on to win the 2000 Sydney Olympics Gold Medal in the 400m track event. Thus, not only did an Aborigine light the Olympic Torch, an Aborigine won a Gold Medal for Australia.

Previously, she won the 100m at the 1990 Commonwealth Games at about age 17 and the 200m at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. In the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games in 1996, she garnered Silver in the 400m. Cathy won two World Championships for the 400m in 1997 and in 1999. She ran again for Australia in the Commonwealth Games in 2002, winning with her team in the 4 x 400 relay and retired in 2003 around the age of 30.

In the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Cathy ran in a blue body suit with shoes in the official Aboriginal colors as a statement. Previously, in the 1994 Commonwealth Games, she took a victory lap, carrying the Aboriginal flag over her shoulder first and later adding the Australian flag. Audience reaction was most positive and she received 5000+ faxes of praise, one from the Australian Prime, Minister Paul Keating.

Freeman next ran a victory lap with the Aboriginal flag at the 1997 World Championships. In the following year, 1998, she was named Australian of the Year. At the 1999 World Championships, she took her victory lap with the Australian flag.

Cathy carried the Olympic Flame into the Stadium during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics and lit the Cauldron. She did this despite some mild protests globally from those prejudiced against Aboriginal Peoples. Freeman's successful delivery of the flame into the stadium and to its final repository in the Olympic Cauldron marked the beginning of a new respect for Aborigines in Australia.

Aboriginal Australian Flag
Aboriginal Australian Flag

Mandawuy Yunupingu - Singer and Principal

b. 1956

Lead Singer for the popular band Yothu Yindi since 1985 when he founded the group. The band combines Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members with success and harmony. Yothu Yindi is a kinship term representing mother and child.

Mandawuy Yunupingu was the very first Australian Aboriginal to become a school principal. He was named Australian of the Year in 2007 for his efforts to reconcile Aboriginals and whites.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal

b. 1920 - d. 1993

Oodgeroo Noonuccal used the English name Kath Walker until 1988, when she had become a successful poet, author, painter and political activist. She became an advcate for Aboriginals.

In 1964, Oodgeroo Noonuccal published her first book of poems as "Kath Walker", calling it We Are Going. An accomplishment worthy of recognition by any woman in the turbulent 1960s and the fight for human rights and civil rights globally, Oodgeroo Noonuccal had become the first Aboriginal woman to ever be published anywhere.

In Tasmania

Truganina (Truganini) (1803-1876). This Tasmanian was from the Bruny Island tribe south of Hobart. From 1803, the year she was born, until 1830, whites slaughtered 5,000 Black Tasmanian Aborigines and left only 75 remaining. Then she was an aide to the explorer G. A. Robinson, known as the Protector of Aborigines. She helped him to make peaceful contact with the Tasmanians from 1830-1835.

Soon afterward, Truganina traveled with Robinson to Port Phillip to accompany him as he accepted the office of Protector in 1838. After this, she lived in Flinders Island, Oyster Bay, and Hobart, where she died in 1876. Truganina is rumored to have had five husbands and have outlived them all, indicating a matrilineal society in which heritage is traced through the female line (similar to tracing DNA through female lines).

In the 20thcentury, anthropologists considered Truganina to be the last full-blooded Tasmanian Aboriginal alive. However, there was discovered at least one other, per Richard Overell, Monash University, Fanny Cochrane Smith, who lived from 1834-1905.

However, data in the 21st century have accounted for a total of 10,000 Tasmanian Aborigines descended from full-blood women, still in the nation, from the Wybalenna people and others. Other reports of 150,000 Tasmanians include descendants from mixed marriages and DNA tests are winnowing that number.

Queen Truganinni

The Tasmanian Aborigines sometimes confuse anthropologists, because they are/were different from Australian Aboriginals and certainly different from New Zealand Maoris and Papua New Guinea Natives.

The Tasmanians, now seemingly extinct in the 21st century, varied in appearance significantly from the mainland Australian Aboriginals. In fact, Tasmanians were thought to be more closely related to the Melanesians.

Considering several other human migration theories, the African group that journeyed across South Australia apparently did not cross the water to Tasmania and their genetic markers have not appeared on that island nation thus far.

Some scientists have believed that Tasmanians were first inhabitants of Australia that were forced off their land by peoples invading from the north. These northern tribes or nations were either descendants of Africans that migrated southeast across India to Oceana or they may have been southern Indian Dravidians, or an intermix of the two peoples and cultures.

During the era in which a land bridge connected Tasmania and Australia, the first Tasmanians, whatever their descent truly was, may have retreated from attacking invader peoples and gone for refuge to Tasmania.

Who the original Tasmanians were is still not fully known.

Source

Evonne Goolagong - Tennis Star at Wimbledon

b. 1951

Goolagong was born in Griffith, New South Wales into a family that was good at sports. At age 5, her first tennis racket was made from wood from a fruit crate. She stated at age 10 that she was going to win Wimbledon as an adult. She did - twice.

AWARDS:

  • Australian of the Year 1971
  • Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year 1971
  • Member of the British Empire 1972
  • International Tennis Hall of Fame 1988

As an Aborigine, Goolagong was not permitted to play on tennis courts in Australia. However, someone at a court saw her staring watching games the bushes and invited her in. She was immediately discovered by two tennis coaches as she began playing well that day. Moving to Sydney, she lived and worked with her coach, Victor Edwards, in order to become a champion.

Evonne won a total of 7 Grand Slams: The Australian Open in 1974, 1975, 1976,and 1977, the French Open in 1971, and Wimbledon singles twice (1971,1980); along with other competitions, and retired after 13 years in 1983. All of her trophies are in the National Museum of Australia, Canberra in a special exhibit.

Evonne Goolagong

© 2008 Patty Inglish

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    • Inspirepub profile image

      Inspirepub 9 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      There are a huge range of successful Aboriginal people, often unsung.

      The Deadly Awards (deadly means "really good" in the modern Aboriginal community) are held every year in Sydney.

      http://www20.sbs.com.au/deadlys/

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thanks for the link; I'll enjoy reading about more great people.  Hope others do as well. :)

    • profile image

      Graceful Guardian 9 years ago

      Please do not ever stop your creative writing for the Aboriginal Peoples of the world.We need you to keep Shining the light on us!Love and Appreciation to you.

    • profile image

      Graceful Guardian 9 years ago

      Why Patty,You are a gift,people should know this.

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

      Patti,

      A magic hub.

      I always find it amazing when some one can find or extol on a subject right under one own radar.

      Tha names you have mentioned are household names in Australia. (Or they should Be)

      Thank you for giving me thepportunity to rethink your Heroes

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Hello Graceful Guardian and Mr. Marmalade! Thanks vey much for visiting. I knew about only a few of these famous people, and started looking for more. I was simply awestruck by their circumstances and accomplishments.

      I probably won't stop studying all this my whole life, and am receiving good info and leads from great Hubbers too! Best wishes to you all.

      PAtty

    • msms profile image

      msms 9 years ago

      Dear Patty Inglish, MS

      Nice way of remembering the real people of land. They need some one like you to write and research about them. You have done A very welcome work. Thanks

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 9 years ago from North America

      Thanks for the comments, msms. I don't think we ourselves can know all the details form the beginning of time, because we weren't there. But I intend to keep at it. :)

    • profile image

      hi five 9 years ago

      this is awesome

    • profile image

      David Wellington 8 years ago

      Hello, I am trying to find information on a family of Aboringinal descent by the name of Wellington. As far as I know my great great grandfather was from around the Melbourne area and was educated in England and was successful with postal delivery in rural Victoria.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      Try the hall of public records (may be called something else) in Melbourne, access a UK geneological site online (likely will require a paid membership), and contact the Victorial Poastal Service Office to ask about thei records. There sould also be some bulletin boards online for discussing Australian geneological research.

      Best Wishes!

    • profile image

      paly 8 years ago

      can you help me with a take i have to say aboyt a fomous aboriginal

    • profile image

      Alex 7 years ago

      as an Aboriginal myself reading about these successful people I'm very inspired and they now motivate me to persue and reach my dream which one day I'd love to be a successful professional dancer. God bless to the successful Aboriginals you guys are an inspiration to all of us Aboriginals in Australia and we are very thankful and proud:) thank you so much

    • profile image

      Em 7 years ago

      all this wonderful people as our roll models

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      And there are many others that are well accomplished! I am ashamed of the tendency for other populations to have denigrated the first peoples of our great continents for so long.

    • Greenheart profile image

      Greenheart 7 years ago from Cambridge

      Great to see this hub,Patty

      I agree with your last comment!

      There must be an equivalent hub for the American Indians

    • profile image

      DNA Testing Centers 7 years ago

      It is wonderful to go through the success stories of these Aboriginal people. I think this is too motivating to read out their journey to success.

    • platinumOwl4 profile image

      platinumOwl4 7 years ago

      This is hands down one of the best articles I have ever read about the aborigines. I love it, I hope you write more.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      I think a complete book of tributes is in order. First I'll see if one is published already an dif so, I'll post a link in this article. I've always found Australia fascinating and want to know more.

    • profile image

      Homeworkedup 7 years ago

      this is really helpful for my assignment:) thankyou

    • saltymick profile image

      saltymick 7 years ago

      Great hub. Could I add to your list Albert Namatjira (1902-1959), outstanding indigenous artist, and Lionel Rose MBE - first Aboriginal World Boxing Champion (Bantam weight 1968).

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Thanks, saltymick!

    • Alison Graham profile image

      Alison Graham 7 years ago from UK

      Your hub has inspired me to find out more as the only two on the list I had heard of are Evonne Goolagong and Cathy Freeman. Thanks for a great read.

    • kazeemjames01 profile image

      kazeemjames01 6 years ago

      Very interesting and amusing. Well done.

    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 6 years ago from USA

      So many unsung heroes in the world...thanks for the research and telling of their stories. I've been fascinated by the Aboriginies ever since the 60's and 70's -- didn't they help by lighting big fires when Apollo 13 was coming back to earth damaged? Anyway, they are an 'specially strong people!

    • profile image

      Emma Silver 6 years ago

      There is a great exhibition at the Queenland Museum in South Bank, Brisbane. It is a wall of photos of inspirational Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including a short biography of each. I think that exhibition is permanent.

    • profile image

      Celsey 6 years ago

      this page has helped me heaps with my homework... thanks!!! :)

    • jackavc profile image

      jackavc 6 years ago from Australia

      Nice list. Although Ernie Dingo is not what i would call great. he is currently up on assult charges for punching a young boy in Katherine N.T

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      O wow, yes the Aborigines did light fires and I remember seeing a brief shot of them in "The Right Stuff" as well. Thanks marisue.

      Emma - Thanks a lot for that additional information.

      jackavc - Seems actors everywhere are punching people out. Too much attnetion, perhaps. Thanks for the comment.

    • aleida_77 profile image

      aleida_77 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Excellent job. I don't know much about the Australian and Tasmanian Aboriginals and found the article very informative.

    • profile image

      NICHOL@$ :) 6 years ago

      COOL IT REALY HELPED

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      This was on a subject that I wasn't to clued up on and it was a real gem.

      I vote it up and I also look forward to reading more of your hubs.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • profile image

      Palawah 6 years ago

      Re: Tasmanian Aboriginal people

      Not sure what DNA tests you are referring too?? I certainly haven't had one. And Im not extinct.

      Truganina story is amazing. She was not the only Aboriginal person to accompany Robinson in Tasmania or Victoria. Robinson was not all he seemed to be. I understand he was awarded a 'trophy' by the white settlers for removing Aboriginal people from the mainland Tasmania. I understand that one of the well respected Aboriginal leaders - Mannalagena thought that he was negotiating a land settlement in assisting Robinson.

      Truganini travelled with other Tasmanian Aboriginal people to Melbourne with Robinson. There was a conflict with white settlers. It is thought that they saw what was happening in Victoria, and tried to engage in 'war' and to engage Aboriginal people in Victoria in fighting the white settlers. However, Truganini and the other Tasmanian men were arrested. Truganini escaped execution, but the 2 Aboriginal men with her were the first men to be hung at Melbourne gaol.

      My mother tells me there were many Tasmanian Aboriginal people in early Melbourne. Many Aboriginal people in Victorian know that they are descendents of Aboriginal people from Tasmania.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      Thanks for reporting in here as a full-blooded Tasmanian, proving the group is not yet extinct, and thanks for your information. The most major DNA tracking effort globally is a group led by IBM, The Smithsonian Institution, and National Geographic, but they are obviously far from covering all groups.

      Thanks again for your stories. The first-person testimonies like this are very valuable.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 6 years ago from Northern California

      Speaking of Aborigines, let's not forget the unintentional scientific contribution of Mungo Man, from New South Wales. An amazingly well-preserved snippet of the mitochondrial DNA in his 40,000-year-old remains, which is considerably different from mDNA found in any modern people, pushed back (or at least should have pushed back) the date for the Mitochondrial Eve of all anatomically modern humans.

      Unfortunately the Nobel Committee does not award posthumous prizes. :-)

    • profile image

      Someone 6 years ago

      jackavc, i get the feeling Ernie Dingo punching someone in the face might be some kind of repercussion of being part of the stolen generation.

      Also the pressures of being a celebrity.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      A tremendous ode to the tribal people of Australia and Tasmanian love it. Great success despite adversity tales, I especially was drawn to artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye and her corrugated steel studio.

      Ben

    • profile image

      pingu. 6 years ago

      know of one during early colonisation?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from North America

      Thanks Ben!

      ping - Do you have someone in mind?- I'd be glad to add more.

    • profile image

      the coach 5 years ago

      Earnie should have whacked twice as hard ,and two times more.

    • moviecast profile image

      moviecast 5 years ago

      I like what you have written your posts are well arranged and beautiful, congratulations!

    • profile image

      Anthony Ramirez 5 years ago

      Who ever made this is a life saver this will Help me with my project on the Aboriginals of Australia

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Thanks for all the comments!

      @Anthony R. - There are many more individuals that are well known, too - check the library! Best wishes.

    • profile image

      emma cotter 5 years ago

      this site was awesome thanks it realy hrlped

    • profile image

      Robert Denis 5 years ago

      The most important and at the same time the most neglected fact about the Australian Aboriginals of Australia is that they have been shown by DNA evidence to be the descendents of the lost tribes of Israel, namely the tribe of Reuben. They also traveled to South America in Ancient times. a good website about this is israelite dot net.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      That's something new to me, Robert. Thanks!

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 5 years ago from United States

      I was not aware of that ..Thanks

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 5 years ago

      What a great hub.

      I had no idea that Evonne Goolagong was an aborigine. She was a great tennis player. I don't really follow tennis but I remember she was a big hit.

      Nice to see positive images of this much maligned nation.

      You have inspired me to do a hub on a similar group that are now fighting for their very existence.

      I want to do a good job on it, so it may be a little while coming.

      Thanks for sharing your talent with us all.

      Michael

    • profile image

      darcyrox4eva1 5 years ago

      This is a really great website and I

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      molometer - I look forward to reading it!

    • profile image

      keny rainbow 5 years ago

      i helped yothu yindi to place the corner stone for the garma and have not been there yet i hope to one day good luck mandawuy

    • profile image

      keny rainbow 5 years ago

      there is a giant crocodile in the desert 125 miles long the bones are still there find them if u can look for yourself

    • profile image

      homework!!! :P 5 years ago

      thank you soo much this really helped me with my layered assignment!... :) i enjoyed reading ...

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Gald to have been of help and I hope you found some other famous people!

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      To be compared to master artists is extraordinary with simple tools. Imagine what they could do with modern tools, paints, canvas, watercolors, acrylics, and oils. They do so much with so little. Bless them. Wonderful hub. And God Bless You. And Happy New Year Precious Heart.

    • gconeyhiden profile image

      gconeyhiden 5 years ago from Brooklyn, N.Y.C. U.S.A

      another great hub.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I learn so much from your hubs and this one is very inspirational. It's true what they say about the resilience and triumph of the human spirit!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      I think every ethnic group has inspirational people AS WELL. Thanks for reading about these! There are many more.

    • profile image

      mr pinicity 5 years ago

      this is cool info

    • profile image

      olivia 5 years ago

      i think that these people are so kind hearted cause of the things there've done to help there country and for sticking up for them

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Yes, I like their examples a lot.

    • Bretsuki profile image

      William Elliott 5 years ago from California USA

      Hello Patty, thanks for a fascinating hub. I, like many, thought the Tasmanian Aborigines had been exterminated by British Settlers. It is good to know that this is not the case. Thank you for a great list. Thought David Gulpalil might have made it too?

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      I think I need to start List Two! There are so many and we should honor them all.

    • Mura Mura Art profile image

      Mura Mura Art 5 years ago

      Thanks for giving recognition to the Aborigines and their diversified talents.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Thanks! I think this is important.

    • profile image

      Shayne Powell 3 years ago

      Some great examples there... I would add Woollarawarre Bennelong, Trugaini, William Lanne, Faith Bandler and Professor Patrick Dodson to my list.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
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      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from North America

      @Shayne Powell -- Thanks for those suggestions! I'll do some reading and add them.

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