lost aboriginal archive surfaces in northeast nsw


From the University of Queensland:

The long-lost works of one of Australia’s leading early anthropologists have been discovered in the shed of a northern New South Wales cattleman.

The groundbreaking works of Caroline Tennant-Kelly, close friend of the famed American anthropologist Margaret Mead, were believed destroyed until uncovered by the detective work of a dogged team of two University of Queensland researchers — Mr Kim de Rijke and Mr Tony Jefferies.


“We’ve worked in native title in Central Queensland and are acutely aware of the lack of historical Australian Aboriginal ethnographic material for the region. We could hardly contain our excitement at the quantum leap this material represents,” Mr de Rijke said.

Mrs Tennant-Kelly’s work as an anthropologist spans from 1932 to 1970.

The collection details daily Aboriginal life at Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement in Queensland in 1934. In the late 1930s she also worked at Aboriginal settlements in New South Wales. She recorded kinship practices, traditional ceremonies, language, territorial knowledge and genealogies. Her research fills large holes for today’s anthropological study.

The collection will be valuable for indigenous communities in Queensland and New South Wales as Tennant-Kelly makes numerous references to families and individuals and their links to land.

The discovery also includes private letters and photographs from her famous friend, the American anthropologist Margaret Mead, correspondence likely to add to the knowledge of Mead’s groundbreaking work.

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