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Dr Mary Frances Mallett (Aunty Molly) AM

Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women logo
Mary Mallett

Awarded for service to the Community, service to Aboriginal Affairs

Born: 1926

Died: 2005

Entered on roll: 2005

Aunty Molly worked endlessly for her community. She has been an inspiration to women of all ages and one of the biggest influences in my life. (Jennifer Houston)

Aunty Molly Mallett was a Tasmanian Aboriginal Elder who lived in Launceston for much of her life. Born on Cape Barren Island, both of Molly’s parents were descendants of Manalargena, leader of the Cape Portland Tribe. Molly’s early years were spent at Porky Boat Harbour and she attended Cape Barren Island School until the age of 14. Molly’s family moved to Lady Barron on Flinders Island and she started work at the fish factory. A year later, the family moved again, this time to Launceston where Molly started working at the Coats Paton Woollen Mills. She married in 1942 and had three sons and one daughter.

Molly lived for several years in Derby, before moving back to Launceston. Molly became a foster carer for children who were wards of the State. In addition, Molly worked informally within the Aboriginal community, fostering so many children that she lost count and supporting Aboriginal people who moved from Cape Barren Island to mainland Tasmania.

Molly was a founding member and a former Chairperson for six years of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Education Council, which developed programs and pathways for Aboriginal children and played a key role in developing Aboriginal education policy. She was also on the National Aboriginal Education Council for six years. Molly established the Tasmanian Aboriginal Child Care Association in 1983. She was the coordinator of the child care centre during its first two years, often putting her pay back in to the centre to meet the running costs. She also enjoyed two years on the women’s committee of the RSL.

Molly returned to Cape Barren Island for the first time in 1988. She made another visit in 1998 as the Elder-in-Residence. She published a book about her early life on Cape Barren Island, My Past – Their Future: Stories from Cape Barren Island, which outlines the impact of 1939 Tindale scientific study on the close-knit community. In 2000, Molly received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Tasmania. In 2002, she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her service to the Aboriginal community.

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