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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Ida West AM

Significant Tasmanian Women icon

(1919 -2003)
Aboriginal Elder, Author, Social Activist

Aunty Ida WestJust be who you are and be proud of whatever side you're on, whatever blood is in you and hold your head up high. Show some respect for all and hope that everyone respects you. That's the main thing. That's all any of us can do.
Ida West, Sunday Tasmanian, 28/9/1997, p.18

Aunty Ida is a great friend, an inspiration, and a unifying figure in Tasmanian society. She is widely respected by the whole Tasmanian community and this award is richly deserved. She has been a magnificent advocate for her people and a tireless campaigner. I will always appreciate the excellent advice that Aunty Ida has provided me over the years.

The return of Wybalenna in 1999 was a defining moment in Tasmanian history and a proud day for the whole Tasmanian community. It was a particularly proud day for Aunty Ida. She had campaigned for the return of Wybalenna to the indigenous community for over 20 years.
Premier Jim Bacon, Media Release on Ida winning a National Indigenous Award, 11 July 2003

Ida West (Aunty Ida) is well known in Tasmania as a strong social advocate for her people. In her lifetime she achieved significant results in women's health, land rights and recognition of the Aboriginal community in Tasmania. Ida was born on the Reserve at Cape Barren Island on 30 September 1919, the second daughter of the late Ivy Victoria Albeana (Everett) and Henry Isaac Armstrong. The family moved to Killiecrankie, Flinders Island in the early 1920s -a full account of her childhood is available in her book Pride Against Prejudice.

Ida married Marcus Sydney West on 30 September 1939 under the gum trees at Killiecrankie, Flinders Island. Her daughter, Lenna was born at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Launceston on 27 July 1940, followed by two sons, Darrell and Michael. Ida and Marcus divorced in 1960.

In an interview with the Mercury newspaper in 1997 Ida described how she first became politically active after joining a Union and seeing the benefit of joint action. Soon after she joined the Labor Party and became involved in Aboriginal politics in the 1970s. She would go on to become President of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (incorporated 1973). Her efforts (along with other Aboriginal activists) culminated in the handing over of the title deeds to Wybalenna on Flinders Island to the Aboriginal community on 18 April 1999.

The following is an excerpt from Premier Jim Bacons' speech at the handing back ceremony in which he acknowledges the role Ida played in this significant event:

Wybalenna remains spiritually important and highly significant to the Aboriginal community and has had a major impact in the shaping of today's Aboriginal community. These reasons have had a major influence on a commitment by my Government and for what I now announce ... that is Wybalenna will be handed back to its rightful owners, the Aboriginal community.
I know that this is an emotional time for all. And to the Aboriginal community and in particular to Aboriginal elders Aunty Ida West and Ruby Roughley who are present here with us today, I know personally that this is something that you have been wishing for and fighting for over a number of years. I'm reminded and Honey (Mrs Bacon) reminded me again last night of Aunty Ida's speech at the launch of the Police Service Strategic Plan last year where she spoke of Wybalenna and left not a single dry eye in the whole auditorium and I can tell you it was a pretty hard bitten audience in parts at least, but Aunty Ida as always spoke from the heart and got the message across.
Transcript of speech by Premier Jim Bacon upon his announcement that Wybalenna on Flinders Island was to be returned to the Aboriginal people. February 28, 1999. Wybalenna, Flinders Island

In recent years the major contribution Ida made to her community has been recognised with a number of awards. Most notable have been being named the National Female Aboriginal Elder of the Year at the NAIDOC ceremony in 2002 and being made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) on 26 January 2002.

In 2003 Ida was presented with a National Special Achievement Award at the NAIDOC ceremony in Hobart.

Other honours include being featured by the Mercury newspaper (1/11/1999) as one of ten Tasmanians of the century and being represented on Bridging the Gap, a Centenary of Federation artwork displayed at Parliament House, Canberra.

Ida has achieved much in her life and is revered by the whole Tasmanian community.

Aunty Ida died on Monday 8 September 2003 after a long battle with cancer. Tasmanians were deeply saddened by the death of such a caring and prominent Tasmanian woman.

References:

West, Ida, Pride Against Prejudice, Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1984

Ida, the unlikely activist: The Sunday Tasmanian, 28/9/1997, p.18

Tasmanian Government Media Releases, 28/2/1999 and 11/7/2003

Tasmanians of the century: The Mercury Newspaper, 1/11/1999, p.42

The true essence of Aunty Ida: The Mercury Newspaper, 13/12/2000, p.14

Links:

The Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women 2005


< Index of Significant Tasmanian Women