Laurie Baymarrwangga

Community Leader

NTNational RecipientSenior Australian of the Year2012


In the nine decades since her birth on the island of Murrungga, Laurie Baymarrwangga has seen the arrival of missionaries, exploitation by Japanese and European fishermen, war and tumultuous change. Undaunted, she has almost single-handedly nurtured the inter-generational transmission of local ecological knowledge through a lifelong commitment to caring for kin, culture and country. In the 1960s Laurie established a housing project on her homelands that has benefitted generations of kin. Speaking no English, with no access to funding, resources or expertise she initiated the Yan-nhangu dictionary project. Her cultural maintenance projects include the Crocodile Islands Rangers, a junior rangers group and an online Yan-nhangu dictionary for school children. In 2010, after a struggle stretching back 50 years, Laurie finally received recognition as the traditional owner of her father’s estate.  She donated all of her money to improve education and employment opportunities on the island and to establish a 1,000 square kilometre turtle sanctuary on her marine estate. In the face of many obstacles, this great, great grandmother has shown extraordinary leadership and courage in caring for the cultural and biological integrity of her beloved Crocodile Islands.

The National Australia Day Council was saddened to hear of the passing of Laurie in August 2014, aged 98.

Laurie was committed to a life of educating others about culture. In life as in death, we take this opportunity to educate all those who read this by clarifying that when an Indigenous Australian passes away, it is inappropriate to use their image or name without consent. We confirm that the NADC have been given the permission, both past and present, to use her image and her name in connection with her award as Senior Australian of the Year.