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Indigenous Australia

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Lawford-Wolf, Ningali (1967–2019)

by Stephanie Convery

from Guardian (Sydney)

This entry is from Obituaries Australia

The Indigenous actor Ningali Lawford-Wolf and star of Sydney Theatre Company’s The Secret River has died at the age of 52 while on tour with the company in Scotland.

Her family and STC issued a statement on Wednesday saying that Lawford-Wolf had died on Sunday. She had reportedly been hospitalised over the weekend, her illness forcing the cancellation of two performances of The Secret River, which had been getting rave reviews at Edinburgh festival.

“Ningali was an incredibly talented performer as well as a wonderfully caring and thoughtful person. We’ve lost one of Australian theatre’s greatest treasures,” the statement said.

A Wangkatjungka woman from the Kimberley in Western Australia, Lawford-Wolf began her performance career as a dancer with Sydney’s Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, before moving on to work with Bangarra Dance Theatre.

She developed a significant film career, and was known for her work in Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), Bran Nue Dae (2009) and the television miniseries Mystery Road (2018). In 2015 she was nominated for the best actress AACTA award for her performance alongside Michael Caton in the film Last Cab to Darwin.

She was also a highly regarded stage performer. Her 1994 one-woman show Ningali won her a Green Room award for best actress, and she had also appeared in shows by Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre company and Perth’s Black Swan State Theatre Company.

Lawford-Wolf was involved in the development of STC’s 2013 acclaimed production of The Secret River, Andrew Bovell’s stage adaptation of Kate Grenville’s novel of the Australian frontier wars, directed by Neil Armfield. She went on to narrate the 2016 return season of the show, performing at its 2017 Adelaide festival season as well as in Edinburgh this year.

Armfield responded to news of Lawford-Wolf’s death with the statement: “She was the best.”

Guardian critic Michael Billingham in his recent review of play called Lawford-Wolf a “powerful figure”.

She also performed in STC’s production of Howard Lawrence Sumner’s The Long-Forgotten Dream last year.

Lawford-Wolf is survived by her children Jaden, Rosie, Alexander, William and Florence, and her grandchildren Zavia and Mia.

Original Publication

  • Guardian (Sydney), 14 August 2019

Other Entries for Ningali Lawford-Wolf

Additional Resources

Citation details

Stephanie Convery, 'Lawford-Wolf, Ningali (1967–2019)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 30 October 2020.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2012