Sunday History Photo/Au

Submitted: Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 02:01
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Daisy May Bates was born Margaret Dwyer in Tipperary, Ireland in 1859
On 22 November 1882, at the age of twenty-three, she migrated as a free emigrant to Australia on the Almora by which time she had changed her name to Daisy May O'Dwyer.
Bates settled first at Townsville, Queensland,She subsequently found employment as a governess on Fanning Downs Station.
Records show that she married poet and horseman Edwin Murrant on 13 March 1884; the union lasted only a short time and Bates reputedly threw Murrant out because he failed to pay for the wedding and stole some livestock. and paying with unsecured cheques, or not at all, Daisy told him to get lost. This he did and eventually he enlisted in the Second Contingent of the South Australian Mounted Rifles. He sailed for South Africa and the Boer War on 26 January 1900.
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Significantly, they were never divorced. Murrant's biographer suggests that Bates played a more important role in Murrant's life than has been previously thought, and that it was she who convinced him to change his name from Edwin Murrant to Harry Harbord Morant.
Soon after her failed marriage to Morant, Bates moved to New South Wales. She said that she became engaged to Philip Gipps but he died before they could marry. She then met John (Jack) Bates and they married on 17 February 1885; like Morant, he was a breaker of wild horses, bushman and drover.
Their only child, Arnold Hamilton Bates, was born in Bathurst, New South Wales on 26 August 1886.
In February 1894, Bates returned to England, telling Jack that she would only return when he had a home established for her. She arrived in England penniless but eventually found a job as a journalist. It was not until 1899 that she heard from her husband again, who wrote saying that he was looking for a property in Western Australia.
At about this time a letter was published in The Times about the cruelty of West Australian settlers to Aborigines. As Bates was preparing to return to Australia, she wrote to The Times offering to make full investigations and report the results to them. Her offer was accepted and she sailed back to Australia in August 1899.
In all, Bates devoted more than 35 years of her life to studying Aboriginal life, history, culture, rites, beliefs and customs. Living in a tent in small settlements from Western Australia to the edges of the Nullarbor Plain, notably at Ooldea in South Australia, she researched and wrote millions of words on the subject. She was also famed for her strict lifelong adherence to Edwardian fashion, including boots, gloves and a veil.
She also worked tirelessly for Aboriginal welfare, setting up camps to feed, clothe and nurse the transient population, drawing on her own income to meet the needs of the aged. She fought against the policy of having native people assimilated into white Australian society and resisted the sexual expoitation of Aboriginal women by white men.
Based at the Beagle Bay Mission near Broome, Daisy, now thirty-six, began her life's work. Her accounts, among the first attempts at a serious study of Aboriginal culture, were published in the Journal of Agriculture and later by anthropological and geographical societies in Australia and overseas.
While at the mission she also compiled a local dictionary of several dialects, comprising some two thousand words and sentences, as well as notes on legends and myths. In April 1902 Daisy, accompanied by her son and her husband, set out on a droving trip from Broome to Perth. It provided good material for her articles but after spending six months in the saddle and travelling four thousand kilometres, Daisy knew that her marriage was over.
Following her final separation from John Bates in 1902, she spent most of the rest of her life in outback Western and South Australia, studying and working for the remote Aboriginal tribes, who were being decimated by the incursions of European settlement and the introduction of modern technology, western culture and exotic diseases.
In 1904, the Registrar General's Department of Western Australia appointed her to research Aboriginal customs, languages and dialects, a task which took nearly six years to compile and arrange the data. Many of her papers were read at Geographical and Royal Society meetings.
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She became the first woman ever to be appointed Honorary Protector of Aborigines at Eucla. During the sixteen months she spent there, Daisy changed from a semi-professional scientist and ethnologist to a staunch friend and protector of the Aborigines, deciding to live among them and look after them, and to observe and record their lives and lifestyle.
Daisy stayed at Eucla until 1914, when she travelled to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney to attend the Science Congress of the Association for the Advancement of Science. Before returning to the desert, she gave lectures in Adelaide which aroused the interests of several women's organisations.
During her years at Ooldea she financed the supplies she bought for the Aborigines from the sale of her property. To maintain her income she wrote numerous articles and papers for newspapers, magazines and learned societies.
In August 1933 the Commonwealth Government invited Daisy to Canberra to advise on Aboriginal affairs. The next year she was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by King George V. More important to Daisy was the opportunity to put her work in print.
She left Ooldea and went to Adelaide where, with the help of Ernestine Hill, she produced a series of articles for leading Australian newspapers, titled My Natives and I.
Aged seventy-one, she still walked every day to her office at The Advertiser building. Later the Commonwealth Government paid her a stipend of $4 a week to assist her in putting all her papers and notes in order and prepare her manuscript. But with no other income it was impossible for her to remain in Adelaide so she moved to the village settlement of Pyap on the Murray River where she pitched her tent and set up her typewriter.
In 1938, she published The Passing of the Aborigines.
In 1941 she went back to her tent life at Wynbring Siding, east of Ooldea, and she remained there on and off until her health forced her back to Adelaide in 1945.
Daisy Bates died on 18 April 1951, aged 91. She is buried at Adelaide's North Road Cemetery.
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Reply By: Richard Kovac - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 03:12

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 03:12
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Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Thoughtfully- Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 08:16

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 08:16
Ooldea Richard?
Time is an illusion produced by the passage of history

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Follow Up By: Member - Doug T (NT) - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 11:08

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 11:08
Thankyou, the Plaque is a great addition to the story, good one.

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Follow Up By: Richard Kovac - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 16:31

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 16:31
Yes Bonz
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Reply By: Member - Willie , Sydney. - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 07:14

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 07:14
Thanks Doug. Very interesting. What a lady.
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Reply By: Skippype - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 07:22

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 07:22
Thanks for the enjoyable read. In 1950 my mother gave me an original copy of The Passing Of The Aborigines which I still have. I didn't know that she was married to the infamous Breaker Murrant. You are never too old to learn.
Thanks again for the article
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Reply By: Willem - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 09:13

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 09:13
An interersting read Doug. Thanks for you Sunday history lessons.

So Daisy May Bates married John Bates whilst still being married to Murrant. Maybe the laws were different in those days.

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Reply By: Member - Heather G (NSW) - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 11:22

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 11:22
Thanks Doug, I always love your Sunday History lesson.
What an amazing woman, given the times in which she lived. It would be a difficult enough life now for many women (and men).

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir

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Reply By: Member - John Q (QLD) - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 12:58

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 12:58
Thanks Doug, another great informative Sunday read. The effort & time you put in to these articles is greatly appreciated.

just crusin & smelling the flowers

1. At Halls Creek (Is he really lost?)
2. East of Cameron Cnr

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Reply By: Stu & "Bob" - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 15:50

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 15:50
Thanks Doug,
Very informative, and a good read, as usual.

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Reply By: Rolly - Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 19:07

Sunday, Mar 15, 2009 at 19:07
May we always remember and honour the eccentric people who think "outside the box" and live their lives accordingly.

She was not considered "respectable" during her lifetime and was a recurring target of abuse from the popular majority who regarded "Abos" as only one stage removed from apes and probably much more dangerous.

Attitudes of this kind are still common in today's society, unfortunately.

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