Indigenous elder's service remembered

This article has photo gallery Published on ABML-C Steven Bruni (author), CPL Craig Barrett (photographer)

Location(s): Adelaide, South Australia

Past and present Service personnel lay poppies on the coffin of Marjorie Tripp, AO who was the first Aboriginal woman to join the Women's Royal Australian Navy. (photo: CPL Craig Barrett)
Past and present Service personnel lay poppies on the coffin of Marjorie Tripp, AO who was the first Aboriginal woman to join the Women's Royal Australian Navy.

***Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should be aware that the following story contains images of a deceased indigenous elder.***

The opening chapter of indigenous women's service in the Royal Australian Navy closed in late May with the passing of the first Aboriginal woman to join the Women's Royal Australian Navy Service. 

Ms Marjorie Tripp AO, was a South Australian Ramindjeri elder who started her naval career at the age of 17 in 1963, when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women were not recognised as Australian citizens. 

She was posted to HMAS Cerberus, in Victoria, for initial recruit training and later posted to HMAS Albatross, in Nowra, New South Wales, as a stewardess prior to being discharged in 1965 after marrying her fiance.

Throughout her service and following, Ms Tripp remained committed to ensuring that her fellow Aboriginal servicemen and woman were appropriately recognised and represented following their service.

For her work towards the recognition of the first indigenous Australians in the armed forces and her promotion of improved age care and health care outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, Ms Tripp was recognised as an Officer of the Order of Australia.  

Indigenous elder, Chief Petty Officer Naval Police Coxswain Ray Rosendale, had the privilege of meeting Ms Tripp at the commissioning of the South Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander War Memorial in November 2013. 

“Marjorie Tripp was a leading light in the early movement for indigenous women she was an inspiration to not only a generation of young indigenous Australians but especially the South Australian wider community," Chief Petty Officer Rosendale said.

“A larger than life person who knew how to achieve excellence in everything she did, Marjorie will be remembered as a highly respected Ramindjeri elder and former Defence servicewoman." 

Throughout the 1980s Ms Tripp chaired the South Australian branch of the National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Committee and she was involved in setting up the National Cultural Institute in Adelaide. 

Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Minister for South Australia, Kyam Maher, said that Ms Tripp demonstrated great bravery in her many remarkable achievements, and in her dedicated service to all Australians.

Ms Tripp passed away on 23 May aged 70.