b. 1935

Following the 1967 Australian referendum, which saw Indigenous Australians included in the census, Gunditjmara woman Alma Thorpe was proud to stand up and be counted as an Aboriginal woman for the first time.

Alma had left school at the age of 12 and grew up to demonstrate the innate fortitude characteristic of so many motivated Aboriginal women. Mother of seven and foster mother to two more, Alma was an early rights activist. Living in Fitzroy, Victoria’s largest urban Aboriginal population, in 1973 she helped establish the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service to provide medical and dental care, and not incidentally, a significant amount of social welfare.

The service had many offshoots including children’s services and a gym and recreation club for urban Aboriginal youth. Alma has also advised and aided the rolling out of other services in Victoria and Australia.

A life member of the Aboriginal Advancement League, Alma is Elder in Residence at the Institute of Koorie Education at Deakin University.