Moving award

(Back row) Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt, Fred Penney, Janetia Knapp, Vernadine Lee Penny. (Front row) Sally Anne Gamble, Kobi Morrison.

THE late Marie Thorne has won the inaugural Sealin Garlett Award for Community Leadership.

Named in honour of the late reverend Garlett, the award was presented on Wednesday as part of the city of Fremantle’s NAIDOC week celebrations.

Ms Thorne, who died last month aged 85, was a resident of Hilton for around 30 years, raising seven children of her own and fostering 12 others.

She was a long-term member of Fremantle council’s Aboriginal Reference Group and Walyalup Reconciliation Group, and was credited with providing the Noongar name for Booyeembara Park (of the limestone hills) as part of its initial advisory committee.  

She was a published writer, creating poetry that showed her ties to her Nyoongar roots and won the Fremantle Heritage Award for an individual after working tirelessly within her community, securing emergency accommodation and shelter for the homeless and other vulnerable people.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said it was tragic Ms Thorne never knew she was nominated for the Sealin Garlett Award.

“Marie was chosen by a panel prior to her passing and we were extremely saddened to learn that she would never know she won this award,” Dr Pettitt said.

 “Her gentle nature belied her determination and she dedicated her life to improve the life of anyone experiencing disadvantage.

“She took her duty of care for her extended family extremely seriously and her generosity and kindness led her to accept any and all requests for help without regard to her own circumstances.

“I sincerely hope she knew how valued she was by the community and for the work she did in her lifetime.”

The award was accepted by Marie Thorne’s son Fred Penny and granddaughter Vernadine Lee Penny. 

It honours the late reverend Garlett, who was a great contributor towards reconciliation to both the Nyoongar and non-Aboriginal community of Perth.

Reverend Garlett also made an invaluable contribution to Telethon Kids – his wisdom, guidance, compassion and leadership shaped research that made a lasting difference to Aboriginal kids’ health. 

Naidoc Week finishes tomorrow (Sunday November 15) but there’s still some activities happening in Fremantle today including the Nyoongar Olympics, a circuit of non-traditional, fun activities for kids aged 3-8 at the Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre, 1-2pm.

The event includes activities such as Knock the Possum Out of the Tree, Holey Honky Nuts and several other fun children’s games.

For more details on NAIDOC week go to

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