Shireen Malamoo

Spirit Figures no.6 - Women of Plantation Creek


Shireen Malamoo has plenty of life experience to share with us, and a visual language that speaks of the spiritual worship inherent in her part-Kanak ancestry and perhaps some exposure to the art of Ian Fairweather as much as familiar Aboriginal styles.

Shireen was the fifth born of a family of eleven. She lived in the town camp on the Birrigubba Lands of Plantation Creek near Ayr in tropical Queensland. As a child she fished for local seafoods such as fish, prawns and crab. She enjoyed collecting bush foods such as sweet potato, mangoes, Damsens (wild plums) and ‘bread and dog’. This was a form of wild honey that grew on vines and looked like brown loaves of bread.

Shireen grew up in a tough Pentecostal community whose belief systems combined both indigenous spirituality and Christian doctrines introduced by the missionaries. Commenting on her family, “They were stoic people who dressed up beautifully for church, proudly sang the hymns and lived their lives according to a sense Christian morality that respected hard work and diligence……they believed that if you worked hard you could change your life for the better. They did things like clean the churches, the court houses and police station and the gardening…most worked in the sugar cane industry, one of the three industries on which the initial economic success of Australia was founded. It’s a tragic historical fact that the White Australia policy which was introduced at Federation and continued until the early seventies, delivered a ruthless form of ethnic cleansing. At this time most of the South Sea Islanders who had worked so diligently in the sugar cane industry were dumped in the Torres Strait and Cape York.


Shireen Malamoo was born in Plantation Creek, near Ayr, in North Queensland and now lives and works in Redfern, Sydney. When Shireen turned to art, it was underpinned by the combined cultures of her parents; the Vanuatu, Tongoa heritage of her mother and her father’s Vanuatu and Aboriginal lineage. Shireen’s totem from her father’s side is the carpet snake.

She has held many leadership positions in Aboriginal Affairs and has been a lifelong campaigner for the rights of her people. As a representative of Australian Aboriginal people, she has twice travelled to Africa (Durban 2001 and 2006) to attend conferences on racism.

Shireen is an Aboriginal community worker who advocates a holistic approach to Indigenous issues. In the 1970s, she worked for the Department of Social Security in Townsville, Queensland and her involvement with the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care included membership of the Finance Committee.

She was a Commissioner of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) from 1991 to 1993 and sat on the NSW Parole Board for 9 years (1994 - 2003). Shireen has extensive experience in the management of non-government services for the Aboriginal community including the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Aboriginal Media Association and the Aboriginal Medical Service in Townsville, and currently sits on the Justice Health Board and has done for some years now. Shireen is also involved with the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern and the AH & MRC Ethics Committee.

Shireen is a well respected artist and feels her involvement in Aboriginal affairs on a local and national level has deeply influenced her artistic work, and her art depicts all the spiritual experiences of her life. Her most recent exhibitions include a solo exhibition at the Washhouse Gallery in Rozelle and as part of a multi-discipline exhibition at the Global Gallery in Paddington.