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Awarded for service to Aboriginal Affairs
Entered on roll: 2005
Just 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. (Aunty Ida 1997)
Ida West (Aunty Ida) was born on the Reserve at Cape Barren Island. Her family moved to Killiecrankie, on Flinders Island, in the early 1920s and an account of her childhood is available in her book Pride Against Prejudice, which was published in 1984. She married in 1939 and had three children, two sons and a daughter.
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 the recognition of the Aboriginal community in Tasmania.
Ida became politically active after joining a union and seeing the benefit of joint action. Soon afterwards she joined the Labor Party and became involved in Aboriginal politics in the 1970s. She went on to become President of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre. Ida had a strong commitment to the return of Aboriginal remains and was one of two custodians of the remains of Truganini. Her efforts, together with other Aboriginal activists, culminated in the handing over of the title deeds to Wybalenna on Flinders Island to the Aboriginal community in April 1999.
Ida was committed to passing on Tasmanian Aboriginal stories and culture to younger generations and the wider community. She visited many schools throughout the State and worked on many projects with students. Ida was a founding member of the Glenorchy Branch of Australians for Reconciliation.
Ida’s contribution to her community was recognised with a number of awards, including National Female Aboriginal Elder of the Year in 2002 and being named as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) on 26 January 2002. In 2003, she was presented with a National Special Achievement Award at the NAIDOC ceremony in Hobart.
Aunty Ida died on 8 September 2003 after a long battle with cancer.