Aunty Ida West (1919–2003) and her family were ‘Islanders’, Tasmanian Aborigines who survived the impact of colonial progress. Her extended family was spread across Tasmania, in contact with each other through a network of mail, itinerant family members, and Tasmanian Aboriginal seamen working on trading and fishing boats between Launceston, Victoria and the Bass Strait islands. Ida West’s life moved on when she married and moved to mainland Tasmania. A strong, outspoken woman who was prepared to fight for justice for her family and her Community, Ida only ever wanted to see justice and fairness for all.
Ida West grew to be ‘Aunty Ida’, that Aboriginal matriarch who would step up to a challenge, and not step back until something was being done about whatever the problem was. In her later years before her death, her energy amazed most people who came to know her. Aunty Ida was always on the move, talking with politicians, church people, Aboriginal community leaders and young people. Aunty Ida had her vision for the Tasmanian Aboriginal community, and she also had a clear understanding of the wider white community and its problems. Aunty Ida cared for all people, black and white. Today many people continue to build on Aunty Ida West’s vision for a better Tasmania, justice for Aborigines, and a happy future for later generations. Aunty Ida did her best, lived a happy life, and encouraged us all. Her memory will live on in the legacy she has left us.
Jim Everett, Companion to Tasmanian History, 2006. Reproduced with permission from Jim Everett, Sally Blanden, and the Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies.