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Donald Daratchimbar Peinkinna (Peynken) (1925–1988)

by Peter Sutton

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Donald Daratchimbar Peinkinna (Peynken) (1925-1988), Aboriginal leader, was born on 10 March 1925 at Aurukun Presbyterian Mission, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland, one of six surviving children of Barry Tarochimba Painkinna (c.1903-1963), so spelt in mission records, sandalwood cutter, and his wife Marion Munkapornch, née Koongotema (c.1904-1968). Donald’s father belonged to ‘Tokali’ (Thukali), now also called Love River. As the upper Love River was Peinkinna’s clan estate, Donald belonged to the Apelech ritual group. His mother was from the area of Ornyawa (Oony-aw, ‘Ghost Story-place’), between Love River and the Archer River. His totems, bestowed by patrilineal descent, were Nhomp (wedge-tailed eagle) and Theelinh (two young women) and his clan’s language identity, which had been through considerable changes since the nineteenth century, was Wik-Mungkan. Among other jobs Peinkinna worked as a cattle stockman. On 28 December 1946 at Aurukun Mission he married May Mehindun Parthipook Kelwainten Peitchmungka (1930-2004).

Strongly attached to the mission and its long-term superintendent, William MacKenzie, who with his wife had cared for him as a child, Peinkinna was seen at the mission as a strong Christian leader. Unlike some, he managed well during the transition of political power from the church to the secular world of elected councils through the late 1960s and early 1970s.

When, in 1973, the mission’s Sydney headquarters asked if the Aurukun Council would like to take over full self-management in 1974, the council, of which Peinkinna was a member, reiterated its view that this was too soon. However they did agree that, from April 1974, all correspondence would go direct to the council chairman with copies to superintendents, who should work themselves into a position of being clerk to the council. The era of ‘self-management’ had partly arrived.

Following the resignation of Richard Kelinda in 1974, Peinkinna became chairman of the Aurukun Council. His term coincided with a historic period of legal struggles between Aurukun and the Queensland government. In July 1974 the council, under his leadership, passed a motion that their draft submission to the Queensland government be amended to include a clause seeking freehold title to the Aurukun Reserve. Two years later the Aurukun Council, in Donald Peinkinna and others v. The Corporation of the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, served a writ in the Supreme Court of Queensland on Patrick Killoran, alleging breach of fiduciary trust as a result of the passing of the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act, 1975, which facilitated bauxite mining on Aurukun land. The writ case was upheld, but was lost on appeal to the judicial committee of the Privy Council in London. Still chairman of the council, Peinkinna opposed the State government’s takeover of Aurukun from the church in 1978; in August the Queensland government dismissed the council.

Like his brother Ian (1926-1996), who served as a local policeman and councillor, and another brother Ralph (1947-2011), a Uniting Church pastor who headed Aurukun’s justice group for some years, Donald exemplified a family history of engagement with local formal governance and community-wide affairs. Ian was often described as ‘the Peacemaker’. They had a half-sister Barbara Anjimulkin Wikngoota (b.1929); her daughter Alison Woolla (1946-2009) became a prominent political figure at Aurukun and served as mayor of its elected shire council for some years. Donald took a neutral position in mission politics that reflected the geopolitical location of his country: being neither on the coast nor truly inland, his forebears had maintained a balance of alliances. He was a measured speaker, and conveyed gravitas.

Many of the people most staunchly attached to the mission regime, and who continued to take public roles in Aurukun after it became a shire in 1978, came from families whose traditional countries were close to the mission and who had come earliest under its influence. These groups dominated in the interface between the local people and the wider world. Compared with recent bush arrivals, they were better speakers of English and were literate. They had also absorbed habits of work and mission discipline, and had adopted means of conflict resolution that were decreasingly likely to end in spearings. Peinkinna’s political career reflected this advantageous legacy of the factors of chronology and proximity in engaging with the new forms of power.

Survived by his wife and their daughter and two sons, Peinkinna died of hypertensive heart failure on 19 January 1988 at Aurukun and was buried in the local cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Tatz, Race Politics in Australia (1979)
  • M. F. Gillan, Small Woman = Wunch Munya (1989)
  • R. Kidd, The Way We Civilise (1997)
  • Australian Law Journal Reports, vol 52, 1978, p 286
  • Aurukun Community Council minutes, 18 June 1973, 3 Apr 1974, 30 July 1974, ID506379, file 6A/31 (QSA)
  • Aurukun Mission person cards (c1927-76), Box MS 1525/34, item 239, and K. Hinchley (comp), Aurukun Oral History Tapes MS 3057, typescript, 1982 (AIATSIS Library)
  • P. Sutton, Wik clans (2011, unpublished manuscript, in possession of author).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Peter Sutton, 'Peinkinna (Peynken), Donald Daratchimbar (1925–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 May 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2012

Life Summary [details]


10 March, 1925
Aurukun, Queensland, Australia


19 January, 1988 (aged 62)
Aurukun, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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.