Bringing back languages from scraps of paper
By Associate Professor Nick Thieberger, University of Melbourne
The controversial ethnographer Daisy Bates recorded many Aboriginal languages in the early 20th century, which would otherwise be lost today; now her papers have been digitised.
In 1904 Daisy Bates, an Irish-Australian journalist and ethnographer, sent out a questionnaire to squatters, police, and other authorities across Western Australia asking them to record examples of the local Aboriginal language.
Mrs Bates (1859-1951) was something of an eccentric – wearing full Edwardian outfits even when living in small tents in Aboriginal camps – and she remains a controversial figure. But she was one of the few Europeans of the era who lived closely with Indigenous Australians and recorded their culture.