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Outback Life - The People
Overview | Alice Springs - The Town | The People | Ted Strehlow and the Aboriginal community

There were a large number of pioneering men and women who together helped Alice Springs and Central Australia develop during the war years. The majority of these people were in Central Australia long before war broke out, and most stayed after the war ended. Many of the names of these people are now used to mark street names, park names and the like. Their contribution to the development of the Territory and all facets of its social development from business to sport to pioneering the provision of services is well-documented and widely praised. In this section we will briefly introduce you to just a few of these famous Territory characters.

John Flynn:
Along with the harsh climate and the arid environment, the isolation of the interior preyed upon the white settlers of the Centre. Few grasped this as clearly and did so much to combat it as the Reverend John Flynn, a Presbyterian Minister, who in 1912 established the Australian Inland Mission (A.I.M.).

Following the successful foundation of the first A.I.M. nursing home at Oodnadatta and his visit to Central Australia in 1913, John Flynn decided to make his second at Stuart [later to be called Alice Springs], because it was here that many inland folk commenced their journey south when seeking medical attention. In 1915 he despatched Sister Finlayson there, and here she worked until June 1916 living first with the Stotts and then at Myrtle Villa on Wills Terrace. ... It was not until August 1926 that the hostel known as Adelaide House was finally completed in Todd Street.

Adelaide House quickly became one of the social centres of the town, not least because of the attraction of the two sisters stationed there. In the Stuart of the 1920s there were precious few white women and even fewer who were unmarried. The first two sisters at the hospital were Sisters I. Pope and E. Small. Both served until 1928, when they married local worthies.

Although built as a nursing home rather than a hospital, Adelaide House remained the only centre for nursing aid in the Centre for almost fifteen years.
Alice Springs - Its History and The People Who Made It, Donovan

1935-39 or 1942-43 - Central Australia
Truck owned and operated by Billy Walsh. A 1928 model 4-cylinder Chevrolet truck. Billy Walsh was a truckie/miner. He did fortnightly trips between Alice Springs and Hatches Creek with stores for the miners. (Image courtesy of Bowman Collection, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory)

The miners of Central Australia too were very influential in encouraging the development of the region. This occurred as a consequence of miners and their families living in remote areas and providing a demand for goods and services which contributed to the need for a well-provisioned community such as Alice Springs. While not being the sole driving force behind the development of Central Australia ('The Red Centre'), the miners together with other groups such as the station owners and the missionaries working with local Aborigines played an important role in the opening up of the area to further development.
1935-39 or 1942-43 - Central Australia (Image courtesy of Bowman Collection, Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory)

Olive Pink:
Miss Olive Pink, born in Tasmania in 1884, trained as an artist or illustrator. During the 1920s she was employed by the New South Wales Public Works Department in Sydney. Here she developed an interest in anthropology, studying it at Sydney University as a Workers' Education Association student. She became a foundation member and a council member of the Anthropological Society.

Olive Pink was a very determined woman. In the late 1920s she had made a visit to Central Australia sketching botanical specimens and was determined to study the Aborigines there, particularly the Warlpiri of the Tanami area. When writing to Professor A.P Elkin (an influential anthroplologist of the period) on 12 September 1932 seeking his support she affirmed that:

I am trying to leave no stone unturned that may get me to Central Australia (EVENTUALLY!) to combine scientific Research with the opportunity to - at the same time - collect data to aid in their eventual protection and the more harmonious adjustment (to essential parts of our culture) of the remaining remnant....All my 'savings' went on the cost of my 6 months trip...so I feel I have earned the right to take an active part in discussions on Aboriginal welfare and protection...So having made (for me) big sacrifices to gain that first hand knowledge - do you wonder I am impatient with people who 'talk' & 'play at 'Protection Society' and yet have sacrificed neither time nor money to become more informed?
Alice Springs - Its History and The People Who Made It, Donovan

Other notable characters in the region from around the War Years period were Ly Underdown, 'Snow' Kenna, Ted Strehlow, Eddie Connellan, D.D.Smith and numerous others.


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© Alice Springs RSL Sub-Branch 2002