'Doctor Do-Good'?: Charles Duguid and Aboriginal Politics, 1930s-1970s


Charles Duguid helped to establish Ernabella mission in 1937, widely regarded as one of the least oppressive and most culturally sensitive missions ever established in Australia. Following his death in 1986, aged 102, Duguid was buried there at the request of the Pitjantjatjara people. By them he is remembered as 'the man who came in the very beginning', and 'the greatest fighter for Aboriginal welfare Australia has ever known-even the world', yet surprisingly little is known of his activism. This thesis examines Duguid's involvement in Aboriginal politics from the 1930s- 1970s in South Australia and the Northern Territory. It is a social, political and intellectual history that offers local, regional and •national perspectives on the administration of Aborigines over four decades. Using Duguid's ideas and activism as a lens, it explores the changing role of white people in Aboriginal politics: from missions to self-administering Aboriginal communities, from inviolable reserves to detribalisation, from segregation to assimilation, from white advocacy to 'black-power'. It pays attention to Duguid's relationships with Aboriginal people-the men, women and children whom Duguid considered his 'friends' as well as those who were critical of him-and documents his disagreements with high profile white Australians such as John Flynn and A.P. Elkin and his support for others including Mary Bennett and Paul Hasluck. In examining the personal, professional and organisational relationships that made Duguid's public advocacy possible, this thesis demonstrates the existence of a strong, if disorganised, network of committed activists, missionaries, anthropologists, public servants and others working to 'save' and/or 'uplift' the Aborigines during the middle third of the twentieth century. As well as locating Duguid's activism within a broader context of humanitarian activity, this study's biographical approach provides new insights into matters of continuing importance to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians today: Aborigines' rights to land, the removal of Aboriginal children, the impact of assimilation policies, and the shifting meanings and significance of Aboriginal culture and identity in Australia.






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