These life stories may contain descriptions of childhood trauma and abuse, as well as images, voices and names of people now deceased. If you need help, you can find contact details for some relevant support services on our support page.

Aboriginal Australian health consultant, Lorna “Nanna Nungala” Fejo (1928-2022), was in institutions as a child. 

Lorna, a Warumungu woman, was born in Tennant Creek, Northern Territory to an Aboriginal mother and white father. Her Aboriginal name is Minpurmngully. 

Lorna was taken from her mother and sent to The Bungalow at Alice Springs at the age of four. During the 1940s she was moved first to the Methodist-run Goulburn Island Mission on South Goulburn Island off the coast of the North Territory, and then to the recently opened Croker Island Mission, also off the coast of the Northern Territory. 

The Mission children were evacuated to Sydney after the Japanese bombing of Darwin in 1942 and Lorna went to the Haberfield Primary School in suburban Sydney. She also lived in the Crusaders Camp Mission Hostel at Otford and attended Wollongong High School until the war ended.  

Lorna returned to Croker Island for a while and then moved to Darwin where she worked as a domestic and met her future husband, Jimmy Fejo. Lorna and Jimmy married in 1951 and the couple had seven surviving children. Lorna worked as a domestic and a cleaner in schools and hospitals while raising a family. She began working at Royal Darwin Hospital when it opened in 1978.

In 1985, Lorna was employed by the newly-established Menzies School of Health. She provided health education to Aboriginal people, and helped established the Strong Women, Strong Babies and Strong Culture program. For this groundbreaking achievement, Lorna was awarded the Australian Medical Association’s Best Individual Contribution to Healthcare in Australia Award (1998), an Australian Achiever Award (2000), and Charles Darwin Research & Innovation Award (2009).

Lorna continued with a rewarding and successful career in the Health Department for twenty-five years until her retirement in 1998. She made major contributions to research by advising non-Aboriginal Australians about how to facilitate research in a culturally appropriate manner and apply research findings to improve health outcomes in communities. 

In 2008, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, consulted with Lorna Fejo about the forthcoming Apology to the Australia’s Indigenous peoples. During the Apology, he retold her story of being chased down by horsemen, removed from her family and never seeing her mother again. As her daughter Christine Fejo-King explains:

Her last memory of her mother was of her crying and falling on her knees as she couldn’t do anything to protect her child… The whole reason that she told her story was because she wanted people to understand what the Stolen Generations were about (ABC).

 On 25 February 2022, Lorna Fejo passed away at the age of 91. Numerous politicians have paid tribute to her life and achievements. She is remembered by loved ones as “having a great love for her family and her people” (ABC). 

References: 

“The Bungalow(1914 – 1942).” Find & Connect, 2021. https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nt/YE00019 

“Croker Island Mission(1940 – 1968).” Find & Connect, 2020. https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nt/YE00021 

“Crusaders Camp Mission Hostel (1940 – 1946).” Find & Connect, 2021.  https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nsw/NE01218 

“Goulburn Island Mission(1916 – 1973).” Find & Connect, 2020. https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nt/YE00015 

Lorna “Nanna Nungala Fejo.” Territory Stories. https://territorystories.nt.gov.au/10070/803535 

“Nanna Nangala Fejo, named in the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, dies aged 91.” Australian Broadcast Corporation, 25 February 2022. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-27/nanna-nangala-fejo-stolen-generations-apology-speech-dies-at-91/100865534

Pearlman, Jonathan. “Nanna Nungala Fejo shared sorrow and joy with PM.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 February 2008. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nanna-nungala-fejo-shared-sorrow-and-joy-with-pm-20080214-gds0zn.html 

Image available here.