Ethel Thomas (Warthardangathi Bijaarrba) was born in 1946 and is a Kaiadilt Bentinck Island women and a senior artist at Mornington Island Art Centre.
Ethel says, “I was born at Oak Tree Point on Bentinck Island or as we call it Lookati. This is on the north side of the island. I was only very small when the missionaries came and took us to Mornington Island. I was asleep when it happened and when I woke up we were on Mornington Island. I missed my parents when we were in the dormitory and we would often run away to be with them. When I was older I worked in the hospital and the mission house. Not long after that I went to Karumba on the mainland and worked on a cattle station. I moved around a few stations and on one, Esmerelda, I met my husband George Thomas. He came back to Mornington with me and we got married there and had my eldest son there as well. We went back to Croydon on the mainland and were gone a long time. When my husband got sick and passed away I returned to Mornington Island in time for our people starting an outstation on Bentinck Island at Main Base or Ninjilki.
“I was fishing again and hunting with the old ladies. I learnt from the old ladies, Aunty Dawn, May and Sally and my older sisters how to speak my language again and make string bags and necklaces. I went around to see the islands. I was seeing my family again and hunting.”
“Aunty Sally Gabori showed me her paintings when she first visited Bentinck again after being away for such a long time. She gave me one because I am her favourite. Now I am doing paintings with my sisters and aunties. It’s good painting all day to get away from the house and have a break.”
Main image credit: Ethel Thomas. Image: Edwina Circuitt IACA