Sketching tour to Central Australia  

In 1930, after reading about how the long drought had broken in the Central desert and the resulting profusion of wildflowers Olive Pink took six months leave and embarked on a sketching tour of the flora of Central Australia and further investigation of how aboriginal people lived. As she was employed by the NSW Railways she was able to travel on the new line from Adelaide to Alice Springs very cheaply. Mr Gahan, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, gave her advice on who to visit and where to stop on her journey.

‘As the Ghan took her north, Olive Pink broke her journey at those places where she had people to see and where she wished to spend time sketching. She would climb down from the train, pass a week or so camped by the line, then move on to the next siding. The word had been passed along the line from Mr Gahan in Melbourne that Miss Pink’s visit should be facilitated if at all possible. She became well known to the railway men but when she stepped down from the Ghan at the Edwards Creek siding they were quite uncertain how they were going to cope with the presence of Miss Pink in their remote hamlet’.
(from: Marcus, Julie ‘The Indomitable Miss Pink’ Sydney, UNSW Press, 2001 p.45)

‘“Miss Pink was given a flour bag to sit on, as Charlie thought the wooden stool would be too hard on its own. When the big pastie, which overlapped the enamel plate, was placed in front ot her, she thought it was a miniature Ayers Rock. Miss Pink struggled with half of it and said she’d eat the rest for her tea that night...”

...Olive Pink spent just over three weeks camped at Edwards Creek siding, sketching the wildflowers and talking to the men about their lives, their work and their hopes for the future. She encouraged Simpson to sketch and helped him with basic techniques...Horrie Simpson was right in his first impression that he had made a new friend in Olive Pink. He was one of the courtly bush gentlemen of whom she spoke well and wrote to for many years. When he heard that she had died, he was to write “Vale Olive Muriel Pink, friend of 45 years. You can now paint the flowers in God’s Garden of Eden.”’
(from: Marcus, Julie ‘The Indomitable Miss Pink’ Sydney, UNSW Press, 2001 p.47)  

Olive Pink’s six-month tour of central Australia to study ‘at first hand, the social condition of the Aborigines (by Aborigines meaning only Full-bloods, since “white” contact) and to paint the native flora’ had been more than successful. She had spent all her time quite unchaperoned, with only men for escorts or companions. To those who would criticise her boldness and lack of decorum, she could report that there had been no difficulties at all, ‘only chivalry and niceness all the time’. She had ventured outside the safety of privilege and had found there the kind of freedom she had sensed at Ooldea as she walked out to try to see for herself the emptiness of the Nullarbor Plain. She had lost her heart to the Centre and nothing would ever again be quite the same.
(from: Marcus, Julie ‘The Indomitable Miss Pink’ Sydney, UNSW Press, 2001 p.53)

Dicrastylis lewellinii
Painted by Olive Pink,
Rodinga in 1930
Eremophila duttonii
Painted by Olive Pink,
Finke in 1930
Cullen australasicum
Painted by Olive Pink,
Edward’s Creek in 1930
Zygophyllum howittii
Painted by Olive Pink,
Edward’s Creek in 1930

Many of the botanical drawings in the University of Tasmania Archives collection come from this Central Australian tour; in particular sketches from Beltana, Flinders Ranges, Callana Reservoir and Marree, Edwards Creek and Wire Creek, in South Australia and the Finke, Horseshoe Bend, Darwin, McDonnell Ranges, near the Granites and Jay Creek in the Northern Territory.

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Last updated 24 April, 2007