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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

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Doreen Maude Kartinyeri (1935–2007)

PUBLICATION: Doreen Kartinyeri and Sue Anderson, My Ngarrindjeri Calling, Aboriginal Studies Press, 2008

NAME: Doreen Maude Kartinyeri

SEX: Female


BIRTH PLACE: Raukkan (Point McLeay Mission)

LANGUAGES SPOKEN: Ngarrindjeri, English


  • Raukkan (Point McLeay Mission): Doreen grew up in a small cottage at Raukkan, with her mother and father. After her mother died, she was sent to go to school and work in Adelaide. During her teenage years, Doreen had to obtain special permission from the Department of Native Affairs to return to Raukkan. (p.3) Because of these restrictions, she returned only for funerals. (p.4)
  • In her late teens, Doreen returned to Raukkan to live, so that she could help care for her sick Nanna. However, when she married Terry, she decided to move to the Point Pearce mission, because she still harboured resentment towards members of her family in Raukkan who “didn’t want me after Mummy died.” (p.94)
  • Kurangk: Kurangk is an area located by a lake near Raukkan. Her Auntie Connie and her family used to go camping at Kurangk when she was a child. (p.8)  It was also an important gathering site for Ngarrindjeri men. (p.8)
  • Kumarangk: An area near Raukkan mission, that was also of significance to the Ngarrindjeri people. Doreen claims that, when she was a young woman, Aunty Rosie told her stories about women’s initiation rituals that happened at Kumarangk. (p.18)
  • Kumarangk became the subject of a great deal of controversy when there was a plan to build a bridge in the area. Doreen opposed the construction, when she recalled the stories that Aunt Rosie had told her about the area.
  • Adelaide: Doreen travelled to Adelaide for the first with her parents soon after her younger sister Nancy died. (p.25) She later returned to live at the Salvation Army Home in Fullerton from 1945 to 1949. (pp.40-70)
  • Doreen moved to Adelaide again as an adult after leaving her husband of 21 years. (p. 199)
  • Adelaide Hills: Doreen’s first job was working as a domestic for Joan and George Dunn in Adelaide Hills from 1949-1951. (p.70)
  • Point Pearce: A mission established in 1968, where the Narrunga Aboriginal community lived. (p.91) Doreen’s Aunt Rose lived near Point Pearce, and she met her husband Terry there. (p.91) Doreen moved to Point Pearce with Terry in 1954. (p.3)
  • Doreen moved back to Point Pearce during the Hindmarsh Bridge affair, because she was physically and psychologically exhausted. (p.188)
  • Kapunda: Doreen moved with Terry to Kapunda, so that he could take up a position in the Highways Department. She soon realized that their marriage was “effectively over”, and moved to Adelaide. (p.119)
  • Cummins: Doreen moved to Cummins on the Eyre Peninsula with her new partner Syd in 1978. (p.121)
  • Boroota: An Aboriginal Lands Trust on the Northern York Peninsula. Syd and Doreen moved to Boroota while she was working at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide. (p.146)


  • Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies sponsored Doreen to travel to Canberra to seek funding for her genealogy project, “Finding my People.” (p.123) It was her first experience on a plane. (p.123)


  • n/a


  • Doreen began her schooling at the Raukkan mission school. It was an all-Aboriginal school, as the mission staff sent their children to be educated in Narrung. (p.13) Her teacher was the long-serving Mr W. T. Lawrie (W.T). (p.13) Doreen didn’t like W.T because he was too strict. (p.14)
  • After her mother died, Doreen’s family became convinced they could no longer care for her at home. In 1945, she was sent with Sister McKenzie to the Salvation Army Home in Fullarton, Adelaide. (p.40) Doreen initially resisted the relocation, but eventually agreed to go because she was told that her baby sister Doris was also at the home. (p.47) When she arrived in Fullarton, however, Doreen realized she had been lied to, as her sister Doris was not there. (p.48) Fortunately, there were other girls from Raukkan at Fullarton, including her adopted sister Elsie. (p.48)
  • Doreen claims that the home was run in “military style”, and she was punished the first night that she arrived for swearing. (p.41)
  • Doreen also objected to being made to repeat two years of school. (p.49) In protest, she became deliberately rebellious, and was often punished and made to do domestic work (p.49) Doreen did very little schoolwork, and as a result she performed poorly. When she did apply herself, the teachers apparently accused her of cheating. (p.52)
  • Doreen’s sole enjoyment at Fullarton was going to the aquatic centre. She and the other girls from Raukkan were good swimmers, because they lived by a lake. (p.54) She also enjoyed going on outings with the boys from Kent Town Boy’s Home (p.56).
  • After some time at Fullarton, Doreen decided to be a “good girl”. (p.57) She was particularly well behaved preceding the school holidays, because she feared being made to stay at Fullarton over Christmas as punishment. (p.59)
  • Despite her best efforts, Doreen found it difficult to conform to the rules at Fullarton, because she and the other nunga (Aboriginal) girls frequently got into mischief together. (pp.57-59) Doreen also claims that the Aboriginal girls – herself in particular – were often scapegoats for the white girls at the Home. (p.63)
  • Doreen was expelled from Fullarton in 1949, after getting in a fight with some of the older students who were being cruel to a disabled girl. (p.65) Doreen was relieved, because she thought that meant she could return to Raukkan. (p.65)
  • Doreen never continued her formal education. However, in 1995 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia in recognition of her genealogical work. (p.171)


  • When Doreen was expelled from Fullarton she thought she would be sent back to Raukkan. (p.65) She was thus surprised when the Aboriginal Protection Board sent her to Joan and George Dunn’s house in the Adelaide Hills. (p.70) Joan eventually explained to Doreen that she’d been sent to work for them as a domestic for two years. (p.72) After the initial surprise, Doreen settled into life in Adelaide Hills, and came to love and respect her employers. (p.72)
  • After two years with the Dunns, Doreen was offered a position working for their friends, the Motterams, who lived in the Adelaide suburb of Kings Park. (p.77) Doreen agreed to the transfer because she liked Mrs Motteram and knew that she was unwell. (p.77)
  • Doreen didn’t have to do any taxing domestic tasks while working at Kings Park, and her primary role was to keep Mrs Motteram company. (p.77) She enjoyed this job, because her employer had a “good sense of humour and was very easy going.” (p.77)
  • In 1950, Doreen learned that her Nanna was sick, and decided to return to Raukkan to care for her. (p.79) She got a job working as a domestic for the superintendent of the mission. (p.85) Most of her small earnings went to her grandparents, who didn’t receive a pension because they were Aboriginal. (p.85)
  • At 16, Doreen became a full-time foster mother to her young cousins: Ron, Heather and Bobby Rankine. (p.86) She then took care of cousin Topsy’s three children while she was pregnant. (p.88) Doreen found the role of foster parent exhausting, but enjoyed feeling needed and trusted. (pp.88-89)
  • While she was visiting her Aunt Rosie at Point Pearce, Doreen found employment as a domestic at the Maitland Hotel. (p.91) When she returned home, she decided that caring for her Nanna was too stressful: so she left Raukkan to take up work picking and sorting grapes at Barmera. (p.92)
  • After Doreen married Terry and moved to Point Pearce, she cared for her own seven children, as well many foster children. (pp.108-110) She also volunteered at the Point Pearce School Welfare Club and the Christmas Cheer Committee. (p.110) She later helped establish a Youth Group and the Point Pearce Women’s Centre, and initiated the first Debutante Ball. (pp.111-112)
  • When she left Terry and moved to Adelaide, Doreen continued to look after her own children, as well as a number of foster children from Raukkan. (p.119)
  • Doreen had a longstanding interest in genealogies, which was cultivated by her conversations with her Aunt Rosie. A Kaurna man named Lewis O’Brien visited her to discuss this interest while she was living in Cummins with her new partner Syd. (p.122) Lewis, who worked for the South Australian Education Department, subsequently arranged a room for Doreen at the University of South Australia, so that she could start formal work on Aboriginal genealogies. (p.123)
  • With the support of Professor Fay Gale – a specialist in Aboriginal social geography – Doreen gained funding for her first project: “Finding my People”. (p.122) In 1983 Doreen published Rigney Families, which included a 44-foot long family tree. (p.125) She also wrote an article for a book called We Are Bosses Ourselves edited by Fay Gale. (p.125)
  • Doreen then sought and gained permission from Norman Tindale – an anthropologist then living in California – to update the South Australian Aboriginal genealogies he had recorded in the 1930s. (p.128) She published Wanganeen Families in 1985, which combined Tindale’s work and her own knowledge and research. (p.128)
  • In 1987, Steve Hemming helped Doreen to start the South Australian Museum’s Aboriginal Family History Unit. (p.129) In 1989, Doreen published the Kartinyeri Family genealogies, (p.130) followed by the Wilson and Rankine genealogies in 1990. (p.146)
  • After she had finished updating the local Aboriginal genealogies, Doreen began to make more extended interstate field trips to update Norman Tindale’s records of other areas. (pp.138-141)
  • Doreen was only paid 260 dollars a week by the Museum, which was less than she was receiving from her pension. (p.133) She often had to discuss sensitive matters, such as parentage and illegitimacy, and for this she faced abuse from some Aboriginal people involved in the project. (pp.139-142) Nonetheless, Doreen was determined to continue, because ‘if I didn’t do it now, our grandchildren would not know anything’ (p.133). Doreen’s genealogical work also enabled many members of the Stolen Generation to reconnect with their families. (pp.135-144)
  • In 1988, Doreen also worked on the book Poonindie: The Rise and Destruction of an Aboriginal Agricultural Community with historian Peggy Brock. (p.131)
  • In 1994, Doreen was named the South Australian Aboriginal of Year. (p.159) In that year, she also dedicated a great deal of her time to defending the Kumurangk site from the harm that would result from building the proposed Hindmarsh Island Bridge. (pp.150-160) During this campaign, her employers at the Museum were very lenient, and allowed her to work from home.  (p.160)
  • In the following years, Doreen came to suspect that some of her colleagues at the Museum had conflicting opinions about the Hindmarsh Island Bridge. (p.170)
  • Doreen felt betrayed when some of her colleagues gave evidence against her in the Hindmarsh Island Bridge Royal Commission, and so decided to resign from the Museum. (p.171)
  • During the Royal Commission, Doreen tried to keep busy. She worked at Koonanda, packing food and clothing for the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands, and continued to speak at conferences. (p.182)
  • In 1995, Doreen became so physically and psychologically exhausted that she decided to move back to Point Pearce. (p.188) While living there, she continued to work on her book Narungga Nation. She also assisted Diane Bell: an anthropologist who was making a book from her submission to Justice Mathews Inquiry into the Hindmarsh Bridge affair. (p.191)
  • At Point Pearce, Doreen also continued work on a book about Raukkan men who had served in the First World War. When published this book attracted both national and international attention. (pp.188-189)
  • Before and after the operation to remove her stomach cancer, Doreen gave up work and was not further involved in the Hindmarsh Bridge affair, other than helping Diane Bell
  • In the process of her research Diane uncovered new evidence from David Unaipon’s unpublished stories and also Norman Tindale’s interviews. (pp.191-192) These documents contained information about Ngarrindjeri women’s initiation practices, which were very similar to Doreen’s testament: “the very things the ‘experts’ of Ngarrindjeri culture said didn’t exist.” (p.192)
  • Diane published her book, entitled Ngarrindjeri Warrawarrin: A world that is, was and will be in 1998. (p.195)


  • Aboriginal Protection Board: Doreen recalls that representatives of the Aboriginal Protection Board visited Raukkan when she was a child, and that she learnt to fear them. (p.12)
  • When Doreen’s mother Thelma died in childbirth, the Protection Board took custody of her newborn baby Doris. (p.29) The explanation for their decision was that her Nanna was too old to look after the child. Lorraine thought this a “poor excuse”: as they had a number of relatives who could help raise Doris. (p.29) This incident increased Doreen’s skepticism towards Government authorities.
  • Doreen believes that the Aboriginal Protection Board’s Welfare Officer, Sister McKenzie, also convinced her Nanna to send her to Fullarton by falsely claiming Doris was there as well. (p.37) When she returned to Raukkan, Doreen harboured resentment toward those members of her family who had sent her away from home. (p.95)
  • Doreen used to have to go to the Native Welfare Department offices in Adelaide to get permission to enter Raukkan. (p.3)
  • Aborigines’ Friends Association: an organisation that sold second hand clothing at Raukkan.(p.9)
  • Red Cross: the Red Cross used to provide old rags to the Raukkan women, which they made into clothing. (p.18) Thelma became a member of the Red Cross, and made food for needy children in the community. (p.18)
  • Church Home League: the Church Home League sent white women to the Raukkan mission, who taught Ngarrindjeri women to knit and crochet. (p.19)
  • Point Pearce School Welfare Club and Christmas Cheer Committee: places that Doreen volunteered while living as a young mother in Point Pearce. (p.110)
  • Point Pearce Youth Group and Women’s Centre: centres that Doreen helped establish while living as a young mother in Point Pearce. (p.111)
  • Aboriginal Housing Authority (SA): Doreen applied to the Aboriginal Housing Authority in 2005. Before she could get a house, she had to obtain a certificate proving her Aboriginality. (p.111)
  • Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital: The local doctor submitted Doreen to the Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital for six weeks of free treatment after she stabbed her husband Terry with a broken bottle. (p.113)
  • Globe Hotel: The Globe Hotel was the first hotel in Adelaide to lift the drinking ban on Aboriginal people. (p.120) Doreen caught up with her Aboriginal friends at the Globe when she lived in Adelaide, and she met her partner Syd there in 1978. (p.120)
  • Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Provided the sponsorship for Doreen’s first formal genealogy project “Finding my People.” (p.123) The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies sponsored Doreen to travel to Canberra, and it was her first experience on a plane. (p.123)


  • Doreen explains the “very strange system” of social security in place in South Australia when she was a child, which gave Child Endowment to “half caste” but not to “full blood”. Because her mother was a “quarter caste” and her father a “full blood”, Doreen’s family received an Endowment. However, this law split other families in Raukkan: some of the children could receive a benefit, while their siblings couldn’t. (p.20)
  • This race-based allocation of resources changed in the 1950s, when Doreen’s father-in-law Bob Wanganeen and her Uncle Percy Rigney campaigned for “full-blood” women to received Maternity Allowances and Child Endowments. (p.21)
  • Doreen highlights the control that Aboriginal Protection Board had over Indigenous people. She points out that Aboriginal people could apply for exemption from these laws: which enabled them to receive Child Endowments, and to live and work off the mission. (p.35)
  • Exempt Aboriginal people also had to cut off their association with their Aboriginal family. (p.35) When Doreen’s mother died, she claims that she had a number of relatives who would have volunteered to help look after her children but who weren’t allowed on the mission because they were exempt. (p.35)
  • In Doreen’s account, the exemption system ended in 1962, and was replaced by a policy of assimilation. (p.118) She thought this policy, which moved people from Point Pearce mission into surrounding towns, was “just crazy.” (p.118)
  • Doreen also notes that the alcohol bans on Aboriginal missions were lifted by 1975. (p.112) She claims this led to a dramatic rise in domestic violence in Point Pearce. (p.112) Doreen believes that this was because Aboriginal men weren’t accustomed to the effects of alcohol. (p.112)


  • Like many women at Point Pearce, Doreen suffered from domestic violence after her husband Terry started drinking heavily. (pp.112-113)
  • On one occasion, when Terry threw a leg of roast lamb out the door because he claimed it was undercooked, Doreen became so enraged that she smashed a bottle and stabbed her husband. (p.113) When she took Terry to the hospital, the doctor submitted her to Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital for six weeks, despite the fact that she was “perfectly sane”. (pp.113-116)
  • At Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital, Doreen was forced to do group sessions with mentally ill people and take sedatives.  She found this so infuriating that she “lost it” in one session and was put in a strait jacket.
  • While working at the South Australian Museum, Doreen developed pneumonia and fell into a coma for six days. (p.189)
  • In 1995, the pressure of the Hindmarsh Bridge affair led Doreen to become physically and psychologically ill. (p.187)
  • Doreen’s stomach ulcers ‘soon developed into cancer’. (p.189) She presumed that this was a punishment for the fact that she had revealed the Ngarrindjeri women’s secrets. (p.189)
  • Doreen’s cancer was removed during a seven-and-a-half-hour surgery in July 1996. (p.191)


  • Thelma Kartinyeri (nee Rigney): According to the official classificatory system, Thelma Kartinyeri was as “quarter caste” Aboriginal. (p.10) Thelma grew up in the dormitories at the Point McLeay Mission, and spent her whole life at Raukkan. (p.4) From the age of 13, Thelma worked as a milkmaid at the mission. (p.19) She then married Oscar, who was also from Raukkan, and together they had six children: one of whom died of diphtheria as a baby. (p.5)
  • Like the other women at Raukkan, Thelma was highly religious, and wove baskets, knitted, crocheted and made clothing out of rags she was given by the Red Cross. (pp.12-19) She later became a Red Cross member, and cooked food and sent it to needy families in the mission. (p.18)
  • In 1943, Thelma’s youngest daughter Nancy died on the operating table while having her tonsils removed. (p.23) Doreen claims that Thelma was usually a calm woman, but when she found out about Nancy’s death she ran to the hospital and “went beserk”: injuring both the Doctor and her sister. (p.23)
  • Soon after Nancy died, Thelma had another daughter named Doris. (p.25) Thelma died within a month from complications following Doris’ birth. (p.25) Doreen, who was ten at the time, describes her mother’s early death as one of the most traumatic incidences in her life. (p.3)
  • OSWALD (OSCAR) KARTINYERI: Like Thelma, Oscar grew up at Raukkan mission, and worked as a labourer on the mission. (p.19)
  • According to the official classificatory system, Oscar Kartinyeri was a “full blood” Aboriginal. (p.10) Doreen was always ashamed of her lighter skin – inherited from her mother – and wanted to be dark like her father. (p.21)
  • When Thelma died in Adelaide, and the Aboriginal Protection Board took the baby Doris into custody, Oscar was “beside himself.” (p.29) Doreen recalls her father going to Adelaide in search of his daughter. (p.31) When Oscar eventually returned to Raukkan, she claims he was tired and dirty, and his hair had turned from black to white. (p.31)
  • After this, Doreen claims Oscar developed a deep dislike of white people, and began to misbehave on the mission. (p.33) Like Doreen, he later overcame this loathing when he began working on the railways, and made close friends with a number of German immigrants. (p.77)
  • When Oscar developed asthma in his old age, Doreen and Terry brought him to live with them in Point Pearce where the climate was drier. (p.110)
  • Oscar died of a heart attack in 1979. (p.120)


  • Growing up in Raukkan, Doreen had an older brother – Oscar Jnr – and three younger siblings: Nancy, Ron and Connie. (p.5)
  • Nancy: In 1943, Doreen’s youngest sister Nancy died on the operating table while having her tonsils removed. (p.23) Her family, particularly her mother, was deeply distressed by the death. (p.23)
  • Doris: Shortly after Nancy’s death, their mother Thelma also died after giving birth to Doreen’s sister Doris. (p.23) When Thelma’s funeral was over, Oscar went to collect the new baby Doris from the hospital. By that time, however, the Aboriginal Protection Board had already taken baby Doris into custody. (p.28)
  • Doreen believes that the Aboriginal Protection Board lied to her Nanna about Doris’s whereabouts, so that she would agree to send Doreen to the Fullarton School (p.37) Oscar later discovered that Doris was not at Fullarton, but at Colebrook Home at Eden Hills. (p.50)
  • When Doreen was old enough to be granted day leave from Fullarton, she obtained permission to visit Doris at Colebrooke. (p.60) When they first met, Doris wouldn’t believe Doreen when she told her she was her sister, because she had been raised to think of the girls at Colebrooke as her relatives. (p.60)
  • After that, Doreen began to visit Doris frequently. (p.61) Still, Doris didn’t recognise Doreen as her sister until she was 16. (p.77)
  • Ron: Shortly after Doreen married, she learnt that her brother Ron had been imprisoned for hitting ‘old Bill Robinson’ in the shearing shed. (p.99)
  • After three months in prison, Ron was prohibited from returning to Raukkan. (p.99) When he tried to reenter the mission for a funeral, he was arrested and spent another 21 days in prison. (p.99) After that, he spent 15 years in Kalgoorlie. (p.99)


  • Jack Sumner: Doreen’s first boyfriend was Jack Sumner, another teenager from Raukkan. (p.85) Doreen and Jack “adored” each other, but were forbidden from being together because their mothers were first cousins. (p.85)
  • Terry Wanganeen: Doreen met Terry while she was in Pearce Point visiting her Aunt Rose. (p.91) They crossed paths again while she doing seasonal work in Barmera. (p.94)
  • In 1954, Doreen fell pregnant and she and Terry decided to get married and move to Point Pearce. (p.94) Terry earned a decent wage as a carpenter and a shearer. (p.95)
  • Terry became a heavy drinker after the ban on Aboriginal people drinking was lifted. (p.112) He became violent, and constantly expressed dissatisfaction with Doreen’s performance as a wife and mother. (p.113)
  • On one occasion, Terry threw a leg of roast lamb out the door because he claimed it was undercooked. Doreen became so enraged that she smashed a bottle and stabbed him. (p.113) When she took Terry to hospital, Doreen was given the choice of pleading guilty to attempted murder or spending six weeks at the Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital. (p.113) She chose the latter option: and when she returned to Point Pearce from Hillcrest she found that Terry’s attitude had changed completely. (p.118)
  • Doreen moved with Terry to Kapunda when he was offered a position in the Highways Department. Regardless of his change in attitude, however, she soon realized that by then their marriage was “effectively over”. (p.119) Doreen decided to leave her husband and move to Adelaide. (p.119)
  • Syd Chamberlain: Syd was a station hand of Pitjantjatjara descent who had four children. (p.120) He and Doreen met at the Globe Hotel in Adelaide in 1978. They moved in together later that year. (p.121)
  • When Syd got a shearing job, Doreen moved with him to Cummins on the Eyre Peninsula. (p.121) Syd worked for the Local Council during the off-season (p.121)
  • Syd and Doreen lived together until 1995, when she decided to move into a separate apartment. (p.187)


  • Doreen became a full-time foster mother for her young cousins at the age of 16. (p.86) She also took care of cousin Topsy’s three children while she was pregnant. (p.88) Doreen found the parenting exhausting, but liked feeling needed and trusted. (pp.88-89)
  • When Doreen fell pregnant in 1954, she was excited to become a mother (p.94) Her first child was born in December of that year, and she named him Terry after his father. (p.102)
  • Baby Terry – who Doreen nick named “Toy-Boy” because of his dolly-like appearance – died from an unknown illness at the age of seven months. (p.104) Doreen describes Terry’s death as one of the two most traumatic incidents in her life: the other being the death of her mother when she was ten. (p.3) She also blames the government, because Point Pearce had poor medical facilities. (p.104)
  • At the time of Terry’s death, Doreen was pregnant with a second child. She was so terrified that she would lose another baby that she considered inducing a miscarriage. (p.105)
  • From 1955 to 1969, Doreen had six more sons and two daughters: Ronald (Jamie), Darryl  (Snacka), Klynton  (Kandy), Lydia (Dibby), Robin and Christabel. (p.107) She describes the birth of her children as the “best thing that ever happened” in her life. (p.3)
  •  As well as caring for her own large family, Doreen continued to foster her relatives’ children following incidents of death and illness. (p.108)
  • Doreen received no government support for her foster children. (p.108) When she did apply for Child Endowment, some people at Point Pearce accused her of only fostering children for money. This was a very hurtful accusation, particularly as it came from Doreen’s “own people.” (p.108)
  • Doreen cared for her youngest five children on her own when she left Terry and moved to Adelaide. (p.120) She also continued to foster Point Pearce children who had run away from the mission, or who were being neglected. (pp. 119-120)


  • Mainu (Grandfather) Archie: Doreen’s paternal grandfather was a well-respected man on Raukkan. (p.34) He was an important source of consolation and inspiration for Doreen when she was a child, particularly after her mother died.
  • Mainu used to tell Doreen lots of traditional Ngarrindjeri stories. (p.3) For example, Mainu used to cut all the children’s hair in Raukkan: but he always made them clean up any hair that fell on the floor. (p.8) He explained to Doreen that this was because Ngarrindjeri men believed they could be killed by sorcery if any woman’s hair touched their body. (p.8)
  • Nanna: Like other women at Raukkan, Doreen’s paternal grandmother was a very religious woman. She kept a bible with her at all times, and frequently read Doreen passages. (p.33) Nanna tried to stop Mainu from telling Doreen about traditional Ngarrindjeri beliefs: which she described as “silly stories”. (p.3) Retrospectively, Doreen presumes this was because Nanna didn’t want this information to get into the hands of white people.
  • After her daughter Thelma died, Nanna decided to send Doreen away to school in Adelaide. (p.37) Doreen presumes that Sister McKenzie convinced her Nana to send her away by falsely claiming her little sister Doris was also at Fullarton. (p.37)
  • Doreen returned to Raukkan when Nanna was sick. She eventually decided that she couldn’t help her grandmother, and left to go grape picking. (p.92)
  • Mr Clarrie Bartlett: The mission superintendent at Raukkan when Doreen was a child. (p.12) He had three children, who were friends with the Aboriginal children at the mission. (p.12) Clarrie Bartlett later became the Secretary of the Aboriginal Protection Board. (p.12)
  • Mr Wilfred Theodore Lawrie (W.T): W. T was the schoolteacher at Raukkan School for 37 years. (p.13) Doreen claims that residents respected W. T for staying so long at Raukkan, but did not find him particularly likable. (p.13)
  • When W. T left Raukkan in 1951, the residents held him a big farewell party, and many of the older men and women cried. (p.15) They later discovered that W.T had fallen ill and died on the boat back to Goolwa. (p.15)
  • Mrs Lawrie: Mrs Lawrie was W. T’s wife. She taught domestic skills at the school, and was beloved by the Raukkan residents. (p.13)
  • Sister McKenzie: the Aboriginal Protection Board appointed Sister McKenzie the ‘Welfare Officer’ at Raukkan. (p.29) It was Sister McKenzie who took baby Doris into state custody after Thelma died.
  • Sister McKenzie was also responsible for taking Doreen to the Salvation Army Home in Fullarton. (p.39) Doreen presumes that Sister McKenzie convinced her Nanna to send her away by falsely claiming Doreen’s baby sister Doris was also at Fullarton. (p.37)
  • Doreen despised Sister McKenzie, and used to play pranks on her whenever possible. She was glad to find out later that Mrs Dunn shared her opinion. (p.74)
  • Joan and George Dunn: Joan and George Dunn were Doreen’s first employers when she left Fullerton. She was initially surprised to end up at their house in Adelaide Hills, because she thought she was going home to Raukkan. Doreen was also caught off guard by their kindness. (p.70)
  • Joan Dunn eventually explained to Doreen that she had been sent to work for them as a domestic for two years. Joan also said that, considering she had caused so much trouble at Fullarton, Doreen should be grateful that she hadn’t been sent to a reformatory. (p.72) Both of these statements shocked Doreen. (p.72)
  • After adjusting to the idea that she wasn’t going home, Doreen settled into life in Adelaide Hills.  She was paid two shilling and sixpence and week, and was treated extremely well. (p.76) The Dunns expressed gratitude when Doreen completed tasks, and were very concerned her welfare. Joan encouraged Doreen to read; took her to Country Women’s Association meetings; and taught her to knit.  (pp.72-73)
  • The Dunns also encouraged Doreen to make trips to Adelaide to visit her friends at Fullarton, and to go home to Raukkan for holidays. (p.75) Doreen left the Dunns after two years of service a much happier young woman. (p.77)
  • Mr and Mrs Motteram: Doreen worked for the Motterams for three months after she left the Dunns. (p.77) Her primary role was to keep Mrs Motteram company. She enjoyed this job because her employer had a “good sense of humour and was very easy going.” (p.77) Mr Motteram often bought Doreen boxes of biscuits from work, and she kept one and presented it to her family in Raukkan. (p.78)
  • Aunty Rosie (Kropinyeri): Doreen’s maternal Aunt lived in an area near Point Pearce mission called “Hollywood”. (p.90) The area was given this name because it is where Aboriginal people who were exempt lived, and they apparently “thought they were big shots – like movie stars.” (p.90)
  • Doreen stayed with Aunt Rosie in her late teens, and developed a strong bond with her. When Doreen moved to Point Pearce with Terry, Aunt Rose taught her traditional crafts like weaving and making feather flowers. (pp.90-91) During their sessions, Aunt Rosie also educated Doreen about genealogies and “traditional women’s things”: such as how to increase the chance of pregnancy; different methods of contraception; and how to deliver a baby. (pp.100-102) Aunt Rosie also explained how the Ngarrindjeri people used to initiate young girls before they had sex: speaking from her own experience as an initiated woman. (p.91)
  • Doreen also claims that Aunt Rosie made it clear to her that this information should be guarded, and only made available to other Ngarrindjeri women.
  • Aunty Rosie was an important source of comfort for Doreen when she lost her first baby Terry. (p.105)
  • Aunty Rosie died in 1981, at the age of 87. (p.122)
  • Don Dunstan: Don and his wife Gretel first came to Point Pearce in 1968, for the mission’s centenary celebration. (p.111) He became friends with a number of Point Pearce residents, including Doreen’s brother Oscar. (p.111) These people were very glad to see him re-elected Premier of South Australia (1967-8, 1970-9). (p.111)
  • Lewis O’Brien: Lewis was a Kaurna man who worked for the South Australian Education Department. (p.122) He visited Doreen when she lived in Cummins and discussed her interest in genealogies. Lewis later arranged a room for Doreen at the University of South Australia, so that she could start formal work on Aboriginal genealogies. (pp.122-123)
  • Fay Gale: a specialist in Aboriginal social geography at Adelaide University. (p.122) Fay worked with Doreen on her first Project, “Finding Our People”, and published Doreen’s first academic article in the book that she edited We Are Bosses Ourselves. (p.125)
  • Milton Gale: Fay Gale’s husband. Fay organized for Milton to help Doreen with her genealogy projects, but they had conflicting approaches to the subject. (p.127) Fay removed Milton from the project after Doreen punched him in the face. (p.127)
  • Jackie Huggins: Doreen met Aboriginal intellectual Jackie Huggins at the Conference of Museum Anthropologists in Canberra. (p.125) They become collaborators and friends. (p.126)
  • Norman Tindale: An anthropologist who had produced a large number of Aboriginal genealogies for the South Australian Museum in the 1930s. (p.127) While working at the South Australian Museum, Doreen sought and gained permission from Norman Tindale – then living in California – to update his records. (p.128)
  • Doreen claims that Tindale recorded material in an insensitive manner, and some of his information was incorrect. Nonetheless, she describes his collection as a “treasure”, which enabled her to connect many Aboriginal people with their family. (p.137)
  • Doreen sent the updated genealogies back to Norman, and he was very complementary and supportive. (p.130)
  • Steve Hemming: The Curator of Ethnology at the South Australian Museum. (p.128) Steve helped Doreen to sort through Norman Tindale’s genealogies, and to establish the Museum’s Aboriginal Family History Unity. (p.129)
  • As the only person working on family history, Steve became Doreen’s “boss” at the Museum.(p.130)  He understood Doreen’s family commitments, and allowed her to leave work at three o’clock every day. (p.13) Steve also accompanied Doreen on her interstate fieldtrips. (p.133)
  • Peggy Brock: an historian working at the South Australian Museum. (p.131) In 1988, Doreen and Peggy worked on the book Poonindie: The Rise and Destruction of an Aboriginal Agricultural Community. (p.131)
  • Tom and Wendy Chapman: The developers who gained approval to build a bridge to Hindmarsh Island. (p.197) Doreen and other Ngarrindjeri women opposed the development, because of the cultural significant of Kumarangk area. After five year of legal battles, the Hindmarsh Island Bridge Act was passed, and the Chapman’s proceeded to build the bridge. (p.197) They subsequently sought 20 million dollars worth of compensation, but their claim was not successful. (p.196)
  • Robert Tickner: the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs at the time of the Hindmarsh Bridge affair. (p.152) After a meeting in 1994, a group of Ngarrindjeri women wrote to Robert Tickner opposing the proposed bridge, because of the cultural significance of the Kumarangk area. Doreen also wrote an independent letter to the Minister. (pp.152-153).
  • In response, Robert Tickner put a 30-day ban on building, and appointed Professor Cheryl Saunders to undertake research into the significance of the area. (p.153)
  • Cheryl Saunders: After the initial protests against the Kumarangk bridge, Robert Tickner appointed Professor Cheryl Saunders to undertake research about the significance of the Kumarangk area to Ngarrindjeri women. (p.153) After receiving Cheryl Saunders’ report, Robert Tickner extended the ban on building at Kumarangk for 25 years. (p.160)
  • Ian McLachlan: The Shadow Minister for the Environment at the time of the Hindmarsh Bridge affair. Ian McLachlan was forced to resign from his position after he opened the confidential envelopes containing the sacred women’s knowledge recorded by Doreen. (p.163)
  • Aunty Laura Kartinyeri: Doreen claimed in her letter to Minister Robert Tickner that her Nanna, her Aunt Rosie, and her Great Aunt Laura Kartinyeri had all passed secret women’s knowledge on to her. (p.152) However, Aunty Laura was one of the first “dissident women”, who claimed that the sacred women’s knowledge had been “fabricated”. (p.164)
  • Doreen believes that supporters of the Hindmarsh Bridge had manipulated Aunty Laura, by making her sign a letter that she couldn’t read properly. (p. 164)
  •  Dulcie Wilson: Dulcie Wilson and her sister Bertha were prominent amongst the “dissident” Ngarrindjeri women: who claimed that Doreen and others had “fabricated” sacred women’s knowledge in an attempt to stop the Hindmarsh Bridge. The Wilsons claimed that the women’s stories were recently made up by Ngarrindjeri men. (p.165)
  • Doreen describes Dulcie as race proud and arrogant. (p.149; p.165) She also points out that Dulcie was a friend of Minister Ian McLachlan’s wife. (p.166)
  • Doreen also claims that the media manipulated images of these “dissident” women to make them appear more “respectable” than her. (p.164)
  • Dorrie Wilson: Dorrie was another one of the “dissident” Ngarrindjeri women during the Hindmarsh Bridge affair. Doreen claims that Dorrie originally supported her campaign, but changed sides due to a personal issue with her cousin. (p.166-167)
  • Doug Milera: Doug was another one of the Ngarrindjeri “dissidents”. (p.172) Doreen claims that journalist Chris Kenny encouraged Doug to change sides, by offering the reformed alcoholic money and drinks. (p.172) During the Royal Commission, Doug rejoined Doreen’s faction, and she forgave him for what he had said. (p.181)
  • Chris Kenny: Chris Kenny was the journalist who covered the Hindmarsh Bridge affair. (p.172) Doreen believes that Chris supplied Doug Milera with alcohol and paid for his hotel room in exchange for an interview. (p.172) Chris also wrote “nasty articles” about Doreen during the Royal Commission, and went on to write a book, which she describes as “very one-sided”. (pp.178-179)
  • Diane Bell: an anthropologist who worked with Doreen on a submission to the Mathews Inquiry into the Hindmarsh Bridge affair. (p.188) During research for her book on the subject, Diane Bell discovered new anthropological evidence that supported Doreen’s claims. (p.192)


  • Doreen claims religion played a “big part” in the lives of the Raukkan mission residents. (p.15) Christianity was brought to the community in the “early days”, and the older generations of Ngarrindjeri people were very pious.  (p.15) Doreen remembers that the old women’s favourite things to do were fishing and going to church. (p.11)
  • Doreen claims that Christianity co-existed with traditional Ngarrindjeri religion. (p.16)
  • As a child, Doreen also enjoyed going to church. (p.16) However, when she returned to live in Raukkan in the 1950s, the Salvation Army had taken over the church services. Doreen didn’t like the Salvation Army’s services, which included time for confession, because they made her feel guilty. (p.81)


The Hindmarsh Bridge Affair:

  • In 1994, Doreen learnt of plans to build a bridge to Hindmarsh Island. She claims she was immediately opposed to the development, because the site where the bridge was proposed – Kumarangk — was significant to the Ngarrindjeri people. (p.147)
  • In 1994, her cousin Victor Wilson collected Doreen to take her to a meeting about the development proposal. (p.148) During the car trip, Doreen explained to Victor that she couldn’t tell him what she knew about the area because it was “women’s business”. (p.148)
  • She reiterated this point at the meeting with other Ngarrindjeri people, and claims that – at that time – “nobody objected or complained that it wasn’t true”. (p.148) After the meeting, the group of women wrote a letter to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Robert Tickner calling for a ban on the bridge. (p.150) Doreen also wrote an independent letter to Tickner.(p.152)
  • The next day the Ngarrindjeri women and their supporters held a protest against the development. (pp.150-151) This protest attracted public attention, and Doreen claims that this was the beginning of a “vicious media campaign to discredit our beliefs and our reasons for wanting to stop that bridge.” (p.149)
  • Following the protest, Robert Tickner put a 30-day ban on building, and appointed Professor Cheryl Saunders to undertake research about the significance of the area. (p.153) At a meeting with Saunders, Doreen shared her knowledge about importance of the Kumarangk to Ngarrindjeri women. She described it as a site for women’s initiation, and a place were they aborted unwanted babies after white men raped them. (p.156) Doreen claims that the group of Ngarrindjeri women present supported her conclusions, and decided that she should be their spokesperson.(p.156)
  • Cheryl Saunders convinced Doreen to record this information for the purposes of her report. (p.159) Doreen hesitated, because she had been told by Aunt Rosie never to share this information: but eventually she was convinced of the necessity. She recorded this information in envelopes marked “confidential: to be read by women only”. (p.159)
  • After receiving Saunders’ report,  Tickner extended the ban on building the Hindmarsh Bridge for another 25 years. Doreen was relieved, but wished the ban was permanent. (p.160)
  • The Chapmans subsequently took their case to the Federal Court, and the ban was overturned on the grounds that Mininster Tickner had not read the secret envelopes. (p.160)
  • Soon after, Ian McLachlan opened the secret envelopes (which he had obtained through an administrative error), and shared the information enclosed with the media. (p.16) Two days later, he was forced to resign, and the secret envelopes were brought back from Canberra. (p.163) However, this brought no consolation to Doreen, who was deeply disturbed by the incidence. (p.163)
  • Following this incident, a number of “dissident” Ngarrindjeri women publicly denied the existence of the “secret women’s business”.
  • First, a letter from Doreen’s great aunt Laura was read out in State Parliament. (p.164) Doreen claims that those in favour of the bridge had manipulated her great aunt, by telling her that the letter was opposed to the bridge. (p.165)
  • Shortly after this, Dulcie and Bertha Wilson claimed that the “secret women’s business” was fabricated by Ngarrindjeri men. (p.165) Doreen claims that Dulcie Wilson had always “considered herself superior” to other Aboriginal people: and she was biased by the fact that she was a friend of Ian McLachlan’s wife. (p.149, 165, 166) Dorren also claims that the media manipulated images of these “dissident women”, to make them appear more “respectable” than her. (p.164)
  • Dorrie Wilson later joined the “dissident women”. (p.166) Doreen claims that Dorrie had initially supported the campaign, but had changed sides due to a personal feud with Victor Wilson. (pp.166-167) Doug Milera also joined the “dissenters”. Doreen claims that this was because he was a reformed alcoholic, and had been offered alcohol and money in exchange for the interview.(p.175)
  • In June 1995, it was announced that there would be a Royal Commission into the Hindmarsh Bridge affair. Doreen was opposed to the idea of a judicial inquiry into Ngarrindjeri beliefs. (p.174)
  • Doreen demonstrated her contempt for the Royal Commission by walking out on the first day of the proceedings, and never returning. (p.179) She continued to participate in the protests surrounding the affair – such as the Long Walk to save Kumarangk – and to speak at conferences. (pp.183-184)
  • The “royal witch-hunt”, as Doreen describes the Royal Commission, ended in November 1995. (p.185) Their conclusion was that the sacred women’s knowledge had been fabricated: and the next day the national media ran the story under the headline “LIES, LIES, LIES.” (p.186)
  • Justice Jane Mathews held a subsequent, closed inquiry, in which Doreen participated by giving confidential information. (pp.186-187) She also worked with anthropologist Diane Bell on her submission to the inquiry. (pp.190-191)
  • Diane uncovered new evidence from David Unaipon’s unpublished stories, and also Norman Tindale’s interviews. (pp.191-192) According to Doreen, these documents contained stories about Ngarrindjeri women’s initiation that were very similar to her own: “the very things the ‘experts’ of Ngarrindjeri culture said didn’t exist.” (p.192)
  • Doreen was surprised that this information had been recorded by men, however she presumed that they “must have known deep down in their hearts that in the future when they’re gone, somebody’s going to need it.” (p.192)
  • Doreen called an emergency meeting for the Ngarrindjeri women, to tell them about the new evidence. (p.194)
  • Diane Bell published this new evidence in her 1998 book, entitled Ngarrindjeri Warrawarrin: A world that is, was and will be. (p.195) Doreen and Diane sent copies of the book to relevant ministers, but they didn’t receive a response. (p.195)
  • In 1999 the Hindmarsh Island Bridge Bill was passed, and the controversial bridge was built. (p.195) Doreen maintains her opposition to the development. (p.196)
  • The Chapmans subsequently sought 20 million dollars worth of compensation from Robert Tickner and Professor Cheryl Saunders in the Federal Court. (p.196) During this court case, Doreen had to take the stand for ten days. (p.197) At the end of this case, the Judge declared that he was “not satisfied that the restricted women’s knowledge was fabricated or that it was not part of genuine Aboriginal tradition.” (p.199) Doreen felt vindicated by the Chapmans’ loss.
  • Doreen received a great deal of criticism for her role in the Hindmarsh Bridge affair, from both inside and outside the Raukkan community. However, she defends her role, by highlighting the positive effects of the Ngarrindjeri women’s campaign. (p.156)

MODE OF LITERARY PRODUCTION: Written by Doreen Kartinyeri, with the help of Sue Anderson.

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This biographical entry was contributed by Australian Indigenous Autobiography Archive

Citation details

'Kartinyeri, Doreen Maude (1935–2007)', Indigenous Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 June 2024.

© Copyright Indigenous Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Wanganeen, Doreen Maude

Point McLeay, South Australia, Australia


3 December, 2007 (aged ~ 72)
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.

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