Territory Stories

Lorna "Nanna Nungala" Fejo



Lorna "Nanna Nungala" Fejo


Fejo, Lorna; Tennant, Lorna


Lorna "Nanna Nungala" Fejo


Territory Women; HistoryNT

Place of birth

Tennant Creek

Date of birth



Indigenous Health Educator


Photograph from Library & Archives NT PH0862/0002 - Lorna Fejo Collection

Cultural heritage

Indigenous Australian

Honours and awards

Australian Achiever 2000; Australian Medical Association (AMA) 1998; 25 years and Development and implementation of Strong Women, Strong Babies program; Charles Darwin Research and Innovation Medal 2009; Centenary Medal 2001

Biographical notes

This is Lorna Fejo's story told to Gaynor Lovett of the Northern Territory Library, January 2010. Lorna was born in the late 1920's to an aboriginal mother and a white father. Lorna's bush name is Minpirmngully. She is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Lorna was taken as a 4 year old, 1932, from her mother and became a part of the 'Stolen Generation'. She was sent to Alice Springs to the bungalows. From here she was sent to Goulburn Island then to Croker Island in the early 1940's. She remained there until being evacuated to Sydney via Oenpelli and Pine Creek, after the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese. (http://www.somerville.org.au/theycrossed.html [They Crossed a Continent by Margaret Somerville] Photos contained in this book. While in Sydney, Lorna attended primary school at Haberfield Primary School then moved to join the other children from Croker Island at Otford. She attended the Wollongong High School until the end of the war. All of the younger children returned to Darwin on board the 'Reynella' After the war, Lorna returned to Croker Island, where more houses had been built to house the children. Schooling was provided by Mr Greentree. She was studying her 3rd year high school while also helping to teach children in grades 1-3. Her time at Croker was enjoyable. Lorna moved to Darwin to live at the Methodist Overseas Mission in Knuckey Street. An opportunity to teach at the Darwin Infant School was missed because her boat was delayed by a heavy storm. She was given employment as a domestic (5s a week) at the home of Reverend Grant, where she met her future husband James (Jimmy) Fejo. They were married at the Methodist Church on 29 April 1951. They moved into a shack at the Police Paddock at Stuart Park, which reminded Lorna of a horse stable. Lorna had 11 children of which 7 survived. Grandmother to 23 grandchild and 14 great grandchildren and many others she has fostered. Darwin High School in Wood Street was Lorna's first really good paying job as a cleaner. They were the 4th family on the Housing Commission list to receive a 2 bedroom house at Rapid Creek. During this time she was a school cleaner at Nightcliff Primary School. She spent time as a domestic at Essington House – a remand home for juvenile boys and girls. She then moved as a domestic to Darwin Hospital at Larrakeyah. Lorna and the children were evacuated after Cyclone Tracy to Adelaide where eventually homesickness got the better of them and they returned to Darwin in mid 1975. They returned to Rapid Creek with Lorna returning to work at Darwin Hospital, then she was transferred to the Royal Darwin Hospital when it opened in 1978, as a cleaner in Casualty. She thought she would try a change of pace and changed jobs to the kitchen serving meals. The Menzie's School of Health opened and Professor John Mathews was looking for an indigenous person who could communicate effectively with indigenous people and they selected Lorna to fill this role. Lorna learnt this job provided her with a way to advance her knowledge of health and health services and to be able to support her in her role as an advisor to Indigenous peoples. In the communities she was able to train the local women about these health services. In this time Lorna worked on developing the Strong women, Strong Babies and Strong Culture program for which she was awarded the Australian Achiever Award 2000. She continues to receive acclamation for this project as it continues to be one of the most successful ongoing programs for Indigenous women this was evident by the receipt of the Charles Darwin Research & Innovation Award given in September 2009. In 1998, Lorna retired from the Health Department after 25 years of a very successful and rewarding time of her life. She continued to play a role in the health education of Indigenous people as a consultant for several more years. As quoted in the Medical Journal of Australia, 'Lorna played a major role in communicating the health priorities and values of Aboriginal people to non-Aboriginal researchers, to facilitate research projects in a culturally appropriate manner, and to work with other Aboriginal people to show how knowledge and research findings can be fed back to communities and applied to achieve practical health benefits' (MJA, 1998). She assisted in the establishment of the Palliative Care Services for Indigenous people. (MJA, 2003) Lorna was indirectly involved with the Land Claims on Mucakty Pastoral Lease. Some of the difficulties faced by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, in identifying the different groups for land claims, are evident in the tracking of the families as indicated in the Warlmanpa (Mucakty Pastoral Lease) Land Claim Report, No. 135, 1997, pp 34 where Lorna Fejo is identified as one of the kirta for the Yapayapa group. She is the remaining senior elder for the Yapayapa group. On the 14th February 2008, Prime Minister Rudd acknowledged 'Nanna Nungalya Fejo' in the Sorry Speech to the Parliament. In another ceremony later that year in Tennant Creek, 'the minister handed Lorna "Nanna" Fejo a framed replica of the stolen generations apology delivered by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. In delivering the apology Mr Rudd retold the story of how she was chased down by horsemen and removed from her family. Ms Macklin also handed Ms Fejo a brief note from Mr Rudd expressing gratitude for sharing her story.' Canberra Times, 29 October, 2008. See photos attached. She regularly returns to country in Tennant Creek for ceremonies and to teach the younger generation their cultural heritage (bush tucker etc.) In 2008, she helped packaged and arranged for the distribution of toys and gifts to aboriginal children around the Darwin and Katherine communities of the NT. Lorna lives in Jingili and enjoys reasonable health and her visits to country and family.


Women; Northern Territory

File type


Related materials

Strong women, strong babies, strong culture(DVD). Darwin : Northern Territory Department of Education, Aboriginal Development Unit, 1996. NTC 613.04244 STRO

Related links

http://hdl.handle.net/10070/217918 [PictureNT : Lorna and the Prime Minister]; https://honours.pmc.gov.au/honours/awards/1122949 [Centenary Medal 2001]; http://hdl.handle.net/10070/217919 [PictureNT : Lorna Fejo's awards]; http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/179_06_150903/mad10362_fm.html [Issues in palliative care for Indigenous communities by Ian Maddocks and Robert G Rayner, Medical Journal of Australia, 179 (6 Suppl): S17-S19, 2003.]; http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2008/02/13/1202760379056.html [Sydney Morning Herald : "Kevin Rudd's sorry speech", 13th February, 2008]; http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/xmas98/mathews/mathews.html [The Menzies School of Health Research offers a new paradigm of cooperative research by John D. Mathews. Medical Journal of Australia, 1998; 169: 625-629.]; http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/i-never-thought-id-see-this-day/2008/02/13/1202760398792.html ["I never thought I'd see this day", The Age, 14 February, 2008.]; http://hdl.handle.net/10070/16669 [PictureNT : Aboriginal children at the Bungalow]; http://pandora.nla.gov.au/nph-arch/2000/Z2000-Jul-6/http://www.nadc.com.au/awards/ach.htm [National Australia Day Council : Australian Achiever Award 2000]; http://hdl.handle.net/10070/217920 [PictureNT : Research & Innovation Medal 2009]; http://www.australia.gov.au/about-australia/our-country/our-people/apology-to-australias-indigenous-peoples/audio-description [Australia Government : National Apology to the Stolen Generations, 13th February 2008.]; http://hdl.handle.net/10070/16219 [PictureNT : The Bungalow]; http://hdl.handle.net/10070/217913 [PictureNT : Lorna Fejo with framed Sorry Speech]; http://newsroom.lds.org/article/mormon-grandmother-helps-australian-prime-minister-say--sorry- [Grandmother helps Prime Minister say "Sorry".]; http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/nanna-nungala-fejo-shared-sorrow-and-joy-with-pm/2008/02/13/1202760398977.html [Sydney Morning Herald "Nanna Nungala Fejo shared sorrow and joy with PM", 14 February, 2008.]; https://ama.com.au/media/nadoc-week-2003-celebration-all-australians [NADOC week 2003 A celebration for all Australians, 10 July 2003.]; http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=215359289015441;res=IELAPA [" NT Icon Takes Out AMA's Top Award." Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, Vol. 22, No. 4, July/Aug 1998: 16.]; http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=266283199464101;res=IELAPA [Berida, Stephanie. "Strong Women Programs". Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, Vol. 20, No. 2, Mar/Apr 1996: 9-10.]

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