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Warren, Arthur (1910–1989)

by Luise Hercus

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Arthur Warren (1910-1989), pastoral station manager, was born probably on 10 May 1910 on Anna Creek station in the north-east of South Australia, third of seven children of South Australian-born Francis Dunbar Warren, a pastoralist of Scottish descent, and Laura Paralta, of Arabana descent. Arthur’s grandfather John Warren (1830-1914) and great-grandfather Thomas Hogarth (1815-93) were members of the South Australian Legislative Council. Francis Warren managed Anna Creek station, which he co-owned with his uncle, Thomas Hogarth.

When Arthur was a child the police from Oodnadatta attempted to remove the Warren children and others of mixed descent from the station; it was said that Francis Warren forced them to retreat at gunpoint. There was no school on Anna Creek and for the children the Arabana culture dominated. In 1918 Anna Creek was sold and with his share of the sale Francis Warren bought Finniss Springs, a much smaller station in saline country 45 miles (72 km) west of Marree. Reluctantly they moved south, out of Arabana country, but it enabled Francis to keep his family together, preventing the children from being made wards of the State. It is a tribute to Francis Warren’s influence that most of the Arabana people on Anna Creek followed him. Arthur, aged 8 and on horseback, helped his father to move the stock: ‘I fell off a few times’, he said. The family lived at a temporary site until a new homestead, consisting of two adjacent houses, one for Francis Warren and his business partner William Woods and the other for Laura and the children, was completed in 1922. Aborigines camped all around.

Francis Warren did not discourage Aboriginal traditional life and practices, and allowed initiations and other ceremonies to take place on the station. Herbert Basedow, visiting in May 1920, listed Laura Paralta as being on Finniss Springs, along with four of her children. Arthur, then barely 10 years old, was not mentioned; he was out working. Continuing at station work for most of his life, he became a superb stockman. He had no formal education but, constantly in touch with older Aboriginal men, he was provided with an Arabana education and was initiated. With an unerring knowledge of the country, he knew the stories that explained the landscape west of Lake Eyre. He made a major contribution to the study of the Arabana language, which he spoke fluently.

Helped by classes for adults, introduced by the United Aborigines’ Mission when it established a mission and a school on Finniss in 1939, Warren taught himself to read, write and count. For many years, beginning in the 1930s, he took sheep and cattle to Marree, accompanied them on the train to Port Pirie and dealt with all the transactions involved. On 27 September 1941 at the mission school, Finnis Springs station, he married Rosa Murray, a Dieri woman.

After his father died on 26 October 1958, leaving the station to his numerous descendants, Arthur Warren took over the management. He was successful, despite several years of drought, but found the problems of having to please more than sixty shareholders insurmountable. Resigning, he became manager of the railways rest house at Marree. His last years were saddened by disputes between Arabana and Dieri people living in the area. A widower, he died on 16 June 1989 at Port Augusta and was buried in Port Augusta West cemetery. His three sons and four daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Basedow, Report upon the Third Medical Relief Expedition Among the Aborigines of South Australia (manuscript, 1921, AIATSIS Lib)
  • B. Shaw, Marree Transcripts (manuscript, 1989, AIATSIS Lib)
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

Luise Hercus, 'Warren, Arthur (1910–1989)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/warren-arthur-15847/text27046, accessed 24 September 2017.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2012