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Kenneth Valentine (Ken) Hampton (1935–1987)

by Judith Raftery

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Kenneth Valentine (Ken) Hampton (1935-1987), Aboriginal community leader and Anglican deacon, was born on 3 December 1935 in Darwin, one of eleven sons of Timothy Hampton, miner, and his wife Sarah, née Johnson, both Alawa people from the Roper River district. Removed from his family aged 3, Ken lived in Church of England children’s homes at Mulgoa and Mount Wilson, New South Wales, and, with his parents’ support, at St Francis House, Semaphore, Adelaide. There he was nurtured in Christianity and taught to be proud of his Indigenous heritage. After attending Le Fevre Boys’ Technical High School he became an apprentice fitter and turner, qualifying in 1956. Rejected by the Royal Australian Navy because of his Aboriginality, he worked for Commonwealth Railways at Port Augusta and for Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd at Whyalla. On 12 November 1956 at the office of the principal registrar, Adelaide, he married Daphne Lorraine Sultan.

Previously a schoolboy athletics champion, in 1961 Hampton won Adelaide’s Bay Sheffield sprint race. Developing a commitment to Indigenous issues, he joined the South Australian Department of Aboriginal Affairs, working at Port Augusta and Koonibba. He overcame a dependence on alcohol and a consequent propensity to act violently. In 1972 he was appointed a vocational officer with the Commonwealth Employment Service and was subsequently seconded back to the State DAA. A founding committee-member (1971) of the Aboriginal Publications Foundation, he helped to establish (1973) the Aboriginal Task Force at the South Australian Institute of Technology. In 1974-81 he was on the management committee of the Aboriginal Community College, Largs Bay. He was appointed (1976) the first Aboriginal justice of the peace in South Australia. Divorced in 1976, on 10 August 1979 at the office of the principal registrar, Adelaide, he married Margaret Lorraine Smits, née Nayda, an Aboriginal health worker and a divorcee.

In the 1980s Hampton became increasingly involved with the Anglican Church, which had resolved to offer greater support to Indigenous aspirations. Appointed archbishop’s lay chaplain to Aboriginal people in December 1982, he worked with alcoholics and prisoners, and offered pastoral care to Indigenous country people undergoing medical treatment in Adelaide. In 1985 he was awarded the OAM. He was made deacon on 20 December 1986 in St Peter’s Cathedral, Adelaide, despite having had no formal training. Archbishop Keith Rayner, acknowledging that this was not `the normal course of action’, declared that Hampton was `the person whom God has raised up’ for ministry among Aboriginal people. He was the first remarried divorced person with a former spouse still living to be ordained in the Anglican Church in South Australia. Hampton’s vision of a centre where Aborigines could gather, in an environment that affirmed Indigenous spirituality and culture, was partly realised in the Nunga Anglican ministry, inaugurated on 30 August 1987.

On the `Aboriginal’ executive committee of the Jubilee 150, Hampton co-edited Survival in Our Own Land (1988), a history of Indigenous South Australians. When the State government sold the publishing company Wakefield Press, he and his co-editor Christobel Mattingley, believing Indigenous rights to the royalties to be jeopardised, fought to retain them for an Aboriginal trust fund.

Having struggled with illness for many years, Hampton had had a kidney transplant in 1974 and a coronary bypass in 1979. Survived by his wife, two sons and five daughters, Hampton died of coronary artery disease on 11 September 1987 at Woodville South, Adelaide, and was buried in Enfield cemetery. He was described as wise, gentle, caring, passionate and determined, and capable of transcending factions.

Select Bibliography

  • J. P. McD. Smith, The Flower in the Desert (1999)
  • Year Book: Anglican Church in Australia, Province of South Australia, 1983-84, 1987-88
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 18 June 1985, p 2, 19 Dec 1986, p 3, 12 Sept 1987, p 4, 17 Sept 1987, p 17
  • Church Scene, 24 Oct 1997, p 9.

Citation details

Judith Raftery, 'Hampton, Kenneth Valentine (Ken) (1935–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 May 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2012

Life Summary [details]


3 December, 1935
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia


11 September, 1987 (aged 51)
Woodville, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.