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Awarded for service to Aboriginal Affairs, service to the Arts
Entered on roll: 2006
Lennah Newson was born in Launceston and spent the 1940s growing up around Killiecrankie on Flinders Island. Her memories and reactions to her childhood were mixed. In an interview before her death, Lennah remembered that through her childhood “…you weren’t allowed to be Aboriginal and you weren’t allowed to be white – you were classed as half-caste, so I had a sense of not belonging to anything” (Examiner, 19/04/2004, p.15).
Despite the hardships of her early childhood and denial of her heritage by white authority figures, Lennah always maintained her strong links to the traditional culture. Of the Palawa people, Lennah emerged as a gifted artist whose work has been collected by many major galleries and institutions, including the National Gallery of Australia.
A gifted weaver, Lennah drew her inspiration from the beaches around Flinders Island. Another source of inspiration for her art was growing up watching her father, grandfather and grandmother making nets, fish traps and kangaroo and wallaby snares. She excelled in all the artistic pursuits she undertook, and was a gifted painter and enthusiastic accordion player.
Lennah played an important role in maintaining her culture by passing on her skills to others. She taught many of the younger generation of Aboriginal women the art of weaving through direct mentoring, school programs and festivals.
The continuation of traditional fibre art in the Tasmanian Aboriginal community will be the lasting legacy of Lennah Newson.