Queenie McKenzie (c.1915-1998)

Queenie McKenzie (c.1915-1998) was born on the cattle station at Old Texas Downs. She grew up among Ginja people and spoke Ginja as her first language. Her mother was a Malgin/Gurdji woman and her father a white man. She was given the bush name 'Garagarag', which has a similar meaning to 'Blondie'. She was raised on Red Butte Country adjacent to, and later included in the Texas Downs pastoral lease. As a young girl, she worked on Texas Station learning to cook. Later on, she learned how to stock camps, as well as tending and riding the horses.

In later life Queenie McKenzie and her husband moved to the settlement at Warmun in 1970's. Queenie did not have children of her own but was surrogate mother to many children whose mothers were unable to look after them. A strong member of the Warmun community, McKenzie was a councillor and taught the Ginja language at the school. She has always taken an active part in ceremonial life, being a good singer and dancer. Queenie was a stalwart supporter of 'women's law business' and language.

That's where she met her long-term friend Rover Thomas and worked with him on Texas Downs station in the early years of their working lives. On one occasion she even saved Rover's life in 1954, when he had fallen from a moving horse and had lost the top of his scalp. Queenie had sewn his scalp back on so well that doctors were amazed that a novice was so skilled. Later Queenie used the story as a subject for some of her paintings.

Inspired by Rover Thomas, Queenie took up painting in her later years, using the knowledge she has amassed by watching the older artists paint their traditional stories. Like him, she liked to use natural pigments she made from ochres that she dug from the ground. She remained very active and continued painting to the last day of her life.

Queenie McKenzie exhibited widely and her works are represented in major collections including the National Australian Gallery, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Towards the close of her life Queenie was declared a State Living Treasure for the unique contribution to the arts and culture and the teaching of the Ginja Language.