Visit to Ooldea to stay with Daisy Bates

In 1926 Olive Pink visited Daisy Bates at her camp at Ooldea, South Australia on the edge of the Nullabor Plain. She wanted to experience the ‘emptiness’ she had read about and to paint it as well as collect and sketch desert flora and fauna. This was also her first experience of aboriginal culture and welfare which became a lifelong passion.

aboriginal hunter
Aboriginal hunter - pen and ink sketch by Olive Pink - 7cmx18.5cm - UTAS archives p6/16/10

‘From the moment of stepping off the train at Ooldea in May 1926 to be greeted by Mrs Bates and the Aboriginal family sent to help carry her luggage, her heart filled with delight. Daisy Bates was then 67 years old and Olive Pink 42. Daisy Bates – ‘Kabbarli’ to the Aboriginal people – lived in a tent and had built a bough shed for some extra shelter. Her store tent was made over to her guest and on the table inside it she had placed a little bottle containing sprigs of Quandong flowers, a pincushion filled with English lavender and a cake of violet soap. Nothing could have pleased Olive Pink more. Her two dearest and oldest friends, Miss Mackenzie and Miss Bartlett, shared the name Violet and she always saw violets as special reminders of their affection. The towels and sheets set out on the camp stretcher that was to be her bed added to the unexpected luxury.’ ‘Everything had been done so charmingly to welcome me – even a comfy chair in my tent – with arms to it!’ she wrote.

Daisy Bates
Daisy Bates

The two were instantly compatible. After tea and cakes of Mrs Bates’s own making, she was provided with two ‘out-back outfits – one, a knitted overall and a cotton one also and old hat and gloves’. While Olive Pink was too vain to wear the other clothes provided by Daisy Bates, the gloves to protect the hands from the sun and the fly-netted hat or pith helmet eventually became the hallmark of her own outback dress.’
(from: Marcus, Julie ‘The Indomitable Miss Pink’ Sydney, UNSW Press, 2001 p.33)

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Last updated 24 April, 2007