Justine Florence Saunders, OAM
(20 February 1953
– April 15 2007
) was an Australian
stage, film and television actress. She was a member of the Woppaburra indigenous
people, from the Kanomie clan of Keppel Island
. She was born next to a railway track. At the age of 11, she was removed from her mother Heather, and taken to Brisbane and placed in a convent
. Heather was not told of Justine's whereabouts for more than ten years, and spent much of that time searching for her.
She first came to prominence as a cast member of the 1970s soap opera Number 96 in 1976, and is also remembered for her role in Prisoner as Pamela Madigan.
More recent TV credits include: Farscape, Blue Heelers, the mini-series Women of the Sun, and MDA.
Her film work includes The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and The Fringe Dwellers.
In 1991 Justine Saunders was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), for her services to the performing arts, her services to the National Aboriginal Theatre, and for her assistance in setting up the Black Theatre and the Aboriginal National Theatre Trust.
In 2000, through the indigenous Senator Aden Ridgeway, she returned the medal in protest at the emotional turmoil her mother was suffering over the Howard government's denial of the term "stolen generation".
Saunders died of cancer at Hawkesbury District Hospital, Sydney, aged 54.
- Obituary "Aboriginal actress who broke stereotypes", by Gerry Carman and Pauline Clague, The Age, 17 April, 2007.