- The Indomitable Miss Pink A Life in Anthropology
University of New South Wales Press, Sydney NSW, 2001.
Octavo; paperback; 340pp., with a map and 12pp. of monochrome plates. Mild wear; covers rubbed with some light creasing; text block and pages toned. Very good. Laid in: a press release concerning the book's issue. In 1926 Olive Pink holidayed with anthropologist Daisy Bates in remote Ooldea on the edge of the Nullarbor Plain, having there her first encounter with Aboriginal culture. In 1930, Pink found herself retrenched from her government position and, with her interest having been piqued by visits to the remote countryside, she travelled to central Australia sketching desert flora. She returned to Sydney and attended lectures in anthropology at the University of Sydney and became secretary to the Anthropological Society of New South Wales. Pink started agitating by writing endless letters to politicians and newspapers to raise the profile and awareness of difficulties faced by Aboriginal people. She strongly criticised government officials, missionaries and pastoralists, making uncompromising demands and constantly badgering politicians, which resulted in her being investigated by ASIO as a communist sympathiser. Pink lived with the remote people for several years, teaching English and other skills, including a failed attempt at establishing a "secular sanctuary" for the Warlpiri people, before moving to Alice Springs to live in 1946. Suffering financial difficulties - she lived in huts and a tent on the outskirts of the town, living off the proceeds of her home-grown fruit and flowers and exhibitions of her art work, as well as working a job cleaning the local courthouse. During this period, she met with the artist Sidney Nolan and his wife, with whom she discussed her experiences with the Aborigines. She refused the old age pension and managed to live on an income of approximately six pounds a week. In 1955 she applied to the Northern Territory administrator for a reservation of about 20 hectares of land on the eastern bank of the Todd River as a floral reserve. The following year the grant was gazetted as the 'Australian Arid Regions Flora Reserve', with assistance from the Minister for the Territories, Sir Paul Hasluck, and Pink was appointed as the 'honorary curator'. Hasluck had had considerable correspondence with Pink over many years. In her Northern Territory Newsletter obituary in 1975 he told the following story: "At the Arid Zone reserve, Miss Pink planted trees and, with the aid of her Aboriginal helper, watered them and tended them. Each tree bore the name of some prominent citizen and if that citizen fell out of favour with her she ceased to water it. So that if the leaves of 'Mr Archer' were drooping and the leaves of 'Mr Marsh' were bright and green or 'Mr Barclay' was growing vigorously, one knew at once what had happened in the handling of her latest request. I visited her on several occasions and could never restrain a curious glance at my tree and felt suitably gratified if I saw that 'Mr Hasluck' was being watered regularly." Olive Pink lived in the reserve, assisted by her longtime companion and gardener, Johnny Jambijimba Yannarilyi, until her death at the age of 91 in Alice Springs.
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