Ningali Lawford-Wolf, actress, singer and dancer, was a Wangkatjungka woman. She was born under a tree at Christmas Creek Station near Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Victoria. She grew up on a cattle station where her father was a drover and her mother a domestic helper.
After her high school years in Perth, she lived in Alaska for twelve months as the recipient of an American Field Scholarship. On her return, she joined the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre in Sydney.
Her solo show, entitled Ningali was written with Angela Chaplin and Robyn Archer. Ningali brings the different worlds together. “The minorities always have to inform and enlighten the majorities”, she says. “That’s difficult.” In her show she sings, dances, and does stand-up comedy. Ningali is a great cultural mediator.
Ningali’s talents as actress, singer and dancer have featured in various theatre, film and television productions. She appeared in Aliwa and Up the Road by Company B Belvoir Street Theatre and Melbourne Workers Theatre’s Magpie. In 2000 Ningali toured Malaysia with a collection of songs and dances for The Black Swan. She performed in Black and Tran for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Solid for the Perth International Arts Festival and Touring. In 2002, Ningali was a featured guest artist in Bangarra's Rations, choreographed by Frances Rings. Ningali performed the role of the narrator in Sydney Theatre Company’s 2016 production Secret River, touring with the production nationally and internationally.
She was M.C for 1997’s Survival Concert, a celebration of Indigenous music and dance and also in The Garden Party as part of the 2001 Moomba Festival. Ningali compered an ABC TV simulcast of an Indigenous music concert in Broome in 2000.
Her forays into film include a lead part in Chris Langman’s The Drover’s Boy and also the critically acclaimed film The Rabbit Proof Fence by director Phil Noyce. She acted as Willie’s mother in Bran Nue Dae (2009). In 2015, director Jeremy Sims managed to lure Lawford-Wolf out of her retirement to act in a starring role in Last Cab to Darwin (2015) for which she was nominated for the 2015 AACTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role as neighbour and love interest of Rex, the lead character played by Michael Caton.
Ningali also dedicated much of her time to working with her Fitzroy Crossing community, with the aim to build pride and resilience, especially with the younger members of the community. Ningali was a mentor with Role Models Australia, encouraging young Indigenous women to undertake higher level education.