ECCENTRICITY

Daisy Bates
Australia Crest

Born in Ireland in 1863 as Daisy May O'Dwyer Hunt, she migrated to Australia in 1884 for health reasons, returning to London in 1894 after an unhappy marriage.

Daisy worked in London as a journalist and in 1899 The Times newspaper sent her to Australia to check on reports of ill treatment to the aboriginal population.

Thus began her life living amongst the Aborigines, for 26 years from 1919 to 1945, all up some 35 years. In this time she studied customs, languages, rites and legends going back to the Dreamtime.

Always dressed in Edwardian clothes she was given the name of Kabbarli (grandmother) and lived in her tent in small settlements from Western Australia to the edges of the Nullarbor Plain, notably at a place called Ooldea in South Australia. Each place she camped at she helped feed, clothe and nurse the transient population, dwindling her own fortune to meet the pressing needs of a forgotten race. Many a day she spent trapping rabbits (underground mutton).

In her book The Passing of the Aborigines, published in 1938, she makes reference to cannibalism and infanticide amongst clans such as the Nyool-Nyool, Bibbulmun, Baduwonga, Kaalurwonga and Baadu.

In 1933 she was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by King George V.

Unfortunately her observations of the aboriginal race were not given great credence by anthropologists at the time. Some saw her as being patronising, though well intentioned, and the work she did as being a hindrance rather than helping the Aboriginal welfare cause.

Read her book, now published by Granada Publishing in London, and make up your own mind.

Daisy Bates died in 1951.


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