Tjawina Nellie Roberts


Wanarn, WA

I was born in the bush at Ilurrpa near Blackstone around 76 years ago, and I am a Ngaanyatjarra speaking woman. We lived in the bush until I was three years old, when my family walked to Warburton Mission. Here, my mother died giving birth to my baby brother, who also died. After that, I was put into the Mission Home for Girls there, so I could go to Warburton School. My older sister looked after me there, Belle Davidson.

When I grew up, I married and moved to Irrunytju, where I now have children and grandchildren of my own. I worked in Irrunytju School and also in Irrunytju Clinic as a health worker for many years. I was an ATSIC Regional Councilor, and I have been a Director for Ngaanyatjarra Council for many years. We travelled around to many places attending meetings.

I have been a wood carver most of my life, but had to stop when my eyes gave out. I can still paint, though, and I am in great demand from the local arts centres, especially Ninuku Arts, who all want me to paint the Tjukurpa of my father’s country at Ilurrpa. So I paint Ilurrpa.

I have many other interests, particularly the safety and education of young women and girls and all things pertaining to women. I have concerns about our communities, and the level of domestic violence there, as well as the large amount of alcohol that is coming into our communities. In 2013 and 2014 I was a Director for the NPYWC Director. I am interested in keeping families strong, and I remember going to Arukun, north of Cairns, with then-Chairwoman, Yanyi Bandicha, and then-CEO Andrea Mason for a Family Responsibility Commission meeting, which was a valuable experience.

In September 2022 I became a NPYWC Director again, and I hope to bring my lifetime experiences, towards good governance and to help with the current issues, notably the proposed Inquiry into Missing and Murdered First Nations Women and Children.