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National Museum of Australia

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4

Birdsville, Boating across Diamantina, Ron Absalom at the oars

1997.0046.0065

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Birdsville, Boating across Diamantina, Ron Absalom at the oars

Object information

Physical description

A photographic negative captioned, "BIRDSVILLE. BOATING ACROSS DIAMANTINA. RON ABSALOM AT THE OARS (PAGE 151) ALSO : - CLOSE UP OF RON ABSALOM. 4 NEGATIVES". From page 15 of photograph album.

Statement of significance

The Noelle Sandwith collection no 2 consists of a black vinyl photograph album containing 18 photographs and 109 negatives of scenes and people around Birdsville, Windorah, and Quilpie. These photographs were taken by Ms Sandwith, a young English artist, on her trip to Australia in 1952-53. The album was given to the Museum in 1995 to accompany the existing collection of 101 sketches drawn by Ms Sandwith.
The photographs are a subset of the subjects reflected in the sketches.
A wide variety of groups and people within the Australian community are examined through the images. These include Aboriginal people and their involvement in missions, life on the outskirts of town, incarceration and the role of the Protectorate. Post-war immigration is represented through the involvement of Greeks and Italians running cafes in small country towns. Community groups representing rural and outback people such as the Australian Inland Mission, Salvation Army, Country Women's Association and the Flying Doctors Service are also included. Images of Afghan cameleers, rodeos and life in the shearing shed are captured.
On the recommendation of the Australian Inland Mission, Ms Sandwith set out for south-western Queensland and down the Birdsville track to Marree in South Australia. She undertook this journey on her own, allowing her the freedom to travel where she wanted and to record the lives of people in the outback as she viewed it. Great changes occurred in Australia in the 1950s. Society changed relatively quickly with the influx of immigrants following WWII. Policies of assimilation were at their height and this extended to both the indigenous people of Australia and the newest groups of immigrants. This period of contact between the various sectors of the Australian community is one which of great interest to us today. The images provide a view of outback society at this time and chronicle the relationships between various groups and people. There was great interest in the treatment of Australia's Indigenous inhabitants during this period. The images provide a personal view of the perceptions of European people towards Aboriginal people. Several poignant comments are made regarding the lifestyle and expectations of Aboriginal people. Whilst these seem dated now, they are powerful reminders of the attitudes which prevailed at the time of sketching.

Object information

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