Friday, 19 January 2018

Daisy May Bates, CBE ( 1859-1951) - Welfare Worker and Journalist

A journalist and self-taught anthropologist, Daisy spent most of her adult life studying and campaigning for the welfare of the aborigines in western and southern Australia. Born and raised in Roscrea, Tipperary, Ireland, Daisy emigrated to Queensland in 1884, where within a year she married her first husband, Edwin Murrant. But shortly afterwards they separated and Daisy moved to New South Wales, where she met and bigamously married a cattleman, named Jack Bates. The following year they had a son, Arnold. In 1894, Daisy left both her husband and son in Australia and went to work as a journalist for the Review of Reviews in London. After reading a letter published in The Times in 1899, about the ill-treatment towards the Aborigines in Western Australia, she wanted to investigate it further and returned to Australia later that year, where she would spend the next forty years studying the culture, history, beliefs and customs of Aboriginal life. When the separation from her husband was finalised in 1902, Daisy devoted all her time in researching the remote Aboriginal tribes of south west Australia, camping amongst them in her tent, where she kept a full set of Dickens and a filing system that consisted of metal-deed boxes stored in an over-turned water tank. She was passionate about their welfare and became a loyal friend, who helped to care for them when they were sick, and became affectionately known as Kabbarli or ‘grandmother.’ 

Daisy spent most of her days with the Aborigines, believing that she was ‘the sole spectator of a vanishing race,’ and maintained a living by writing numerous articles for magazines and newspapers. In 1904, she was assigned by the Western Australian government, to record data on the Aborigines language, religion, myth and kinship, an extensive task that took seven years to complete. Her work was published in the Anthropological and Geographical Societies, in Australia and overseas. She also compiled a local dictionary of several dialects. In 1912, she became the first woman to be appointed Honorary Protector of Aborigines at Eucla and in 1933, she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire or C.B.E in recognition of her work with the Aboriginal people. Ill health forced her to abandon her nomadic life and in 1945 she settled in Adelaide until her death in April 1951. 


  1. Hello! I've been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Tx!
    Just wanted to say keep up the excellent work!

  2. Thank you and thanks for dropping by and commenting. :)