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Awarded for service to Aboriginal affairs, arts or media, education and training and community service.
Born: 11 August 1947 - Flinders Island, Tasmania
Entered on roll: 2017
“Pride and love for family and heritage”
Aunty Verna Nichols was born on Flinders Island. She actively supports Tasmanian Aboriginal people and advances reconciliation through art, education and cultural awareness training.
Aunty Verna worked as a mother craft nurse at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Children’s Centre from 1970 to1979, and helped establish the Karadi Aboriginal Corporation where she worked for two years supporting Tasmanian Aboriginal women.
Aunty Verna trained in design and screen printing, established Palawa Prints and trains others in Aboriginal cultural practices. Her artworks include traditional and contemporary fibre baskets, bull kelp water carriers and bowls and shell necklaces. Her pieces are held in collections at the National Museum of Australia, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) and Brest Maritime Heritage Centre in France. Aunty Verna was a finalist in the National Indigenous Heritage Art Award 1993 and Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award 2005.
The needwonee walk at Melaleuca includes Aunty Verna’s work. Aunty Verna and members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community spent two weeks in Tasmania’s remote South West making and designing the installations for the interpretative walk for the Parks and Wildlife Service.
Art has helped Aunty Verna raise cultural awareness and break down barriers between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students and teachers. In 1998, she started painting murals in schools with teachers and students. In 2004, Aunty Verna developed and delivered an Aboriginal student program in 20 Catholic schools and colleges, sharing Aboriginal culture with Aboriginal students, and their friends, through mediums such as weaving, ballawinne (ochre), shells, kelp and storytelling. Aunty Verna also mentors Tasmanian Aboriginal community members to work as cultural tutors in schools.
A respected Aboriginal cultural advisor, Aunty Verna delivered a paper entitled The Aboriginal Recreation Program: connection with country, culture, family and community at the 5th International Adventure Therapy Conference in Scotland.
Aunty Verna has been a Board Member of the TMAG Aboriginal Advisory Board, Karadi Aboriginal Corporation, Palawa Aboriginal Corporation, Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council, and is a member of Anglicare’s Aboriginal “yarnin up” Advisory Board.