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The Barr Smith Library recognises the moral rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the owners of their knowledge. To this end, Special Collections is digitising the Daisy Bates Papers in our collections to enhance access for people who cannot travel to Adelaide.
Please be aware that this site may contain sensitive information, including the names and images of people who have passed away and which may sadden and distress some Aboriginal people. This site may also contain language and terms used by an author that reflect an inappropriate attitude due to the historical context in which these records were created.
Daisy Bates (1859 – 1951) was a pioneer in the observation, over a period of 35 years, of the Aboriginal people living in the desert around the Great Australian Bight.
Born in County Tipperary, Ireland as Daisy May O’Dwyer, she arrived in Australia in 1883 and worked as a governess to the Bates family near Nowra, NSW. In 1885 she married the eldest son, drover John Bates. It has since been proven that she had previously married the man we know as Harry ‘Breaker” Morant and possibly another man as well, without ever having had these marriages dissolved. After bearing a son to John Bates, she left alone for London to work as a journalist for the next 5 years.
Daisy Bates returned to Australia in 1899 and consulted with Aboriginal people on language, religion, myths, customs and kinship. In about 1919 she settled in Ooldea SA to live with “her” people for more than 16 years, seeing her role as “smoothing the pillow of a dying race”.
She wrote My Natives and I and The Passing of the Aborigines in 1935 in order to publicise her cause and attract funds for her work. Some of her notes were compiled with secretarial help 1936 – 40 and later deposited in the National Library
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