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Video clip synopsis – Rosalie Kunoth-Monks is an actor, ex-nun and Aboriginal activist.
Year of production - 1995
Duration - 1min 15sec
Tags - assimilation, children, civics and citizenship, communities, family life, health, human rights, identity, Indigenous Australia, inequality, self-determination, socialisation, social justice, stereotypes, welfare services, see all tags


Rosalie Kunoth Monks - Social Work

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About the Video Clip


Rosalie Kunoth Monks – Social Work is an excerpt from the program Rosalie Kunoth Monks (26 mins), an episode of Australian Biography Series 4 (7×26 mins), produced in 1995.

Rosalie Kunoth Monks Until the age of nine, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks lived on remote Utopia Station in the Northern Territory where she learnt the Aboriginal laws of her tribe, the Amatjere people. In 1953 she was discovered by filmmakers Charles and Elsa Chauvel and won the lead role in Jedda, a film that became an Australian classic. Later, Rosalie spent ten fulfilling years as a nun in a Melbourne convent before leaving to set up the first Aboriginal hostel in Victoria. She has continued to be active in social work and politics and as a campaigner for her people.

Australian Biography Series 4: The Australian Biography series profiles some of the most extraordinary Australians of our time. Many have had a major impact on the nation’s cultural, political and social life. All are remarkable and inspiring people who have reached a stage in their lives where they can look back and reflect. Through revealing in-depth interviews, they share their stories – of beginnings and challenges, landmarks and turning points. In so doing, they provide us with an invaluable archival record and a unique perspective on the roads we, as a country, have travelled.

Australian Biography Series 4 is a Film Australia National Interest Program.

Background Information


Rosalie Kunoth-Monks was the lead female actor in the first Australian full-length colour feature film, Jedda (dir. Chauvel, 1955), which for her was not a good experience (see her comments online in the Australian Biography Kunoth-Monks video clip titled, Jedda).

From the beginning of her working life, Rosalie knew her future would involve helping people. Rosalie expected to find opportunities to help people within the Anglican convent, the Community of the Holy Name where she became an ordained nun. However, after 10 years she left because of a sense of alienation.

She married Bill Monks in 1970. Together they set up the first exclusively Aboriginal family group home, in the Melbourne suburb of Essendon, a system where residential houses are provided for families with special needs. After this, they moved back to Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory, where she continued her involvement in social work, and later, political activism, on behalf of Aboriginal people. In later years she returned to her birthplace, Utopia Station, in Central Australia

Classroom Activities

  1. After viewing the video about Rosalie Kunoth-Monks – Social Work, discuss in class then write answers to the following:
    1. Describe the type of work Rosalie was doing as a liaison officer in Victoria. What was her specialist area of professional training?
    2. Explain what Rosalie was responsible for being the first to institute when she was working with the Victorian Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.
  2. Research then produce an illustrated poster display or a website page on the life and achievements of Rosalie Kunoth-Monks. (You may also wish to include information about the famous film in which she starred in 1955, Jedda, and her reaction years later to both the film and the role she played.)
  3. In pairs or small groups carry out research on the range of activities and roles of your state or territory’s present governmental department(s) responsible for Indigenous affairs and welfare, and create an informative two-page spread about it for a magazine. (As there is a wide range to cover, you may wish to concentrate on one aspect only, such as health, school or workplace education, or liaison with cultural and arts groups etc.)
  4. Discuss in class first then plan and write five diary entries about the experiences of an Indigenous liaison officer such as Rosalie Kunoth-Monks, visiting a community to get to know the local population and to assess the people’s needs.

Further Resources


Helen Chryssides, Local Heroes, Collins Dove, Blackburn, 1993
Keith Gow (dir), Women of Utopia, Film Australia, 1983
Go to Australian Biography Online Rosalie Kunoth-Monks
Go to Rosalie Kunoth-Monks 1
Go to Rosalie Kunoth-Monks 2
Go to Reconciliation Australia