A message to bring them back: Miss Pink, the Milpirri Festival and cultural exchange in desert Australia
Maligned and ostracised in her later years for her passionate activism, Olive Pink (1884–1975) conducted seminal anthropological work among the Arrente and Warlpiri peoples of desert Australia in the 1930s. She chose to life a live of austerity, and remained a lifelong advocate for improving the legal rights and living conditions of Aboriginal Australians. Her extensive ethnographic collections are now held by the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra, and reveal her far-sighted approaches to living and working across cultures in balance with desert Australians at a time when government policies were instead focused on their assimilation. Research into this collection through my current Australian Research Council (ARC) project, ‘Early collections of Warlpiri cultural heritage and resulting community access needs in remote desert Australia’, connects Pink’s strategies for working with Warlpiri in an entirely new cross-cultural setting to my own attempts as Creative Director of the Milpirri Festival at Lajamanu to find new ways to ensure the continuation of Warlpiri culture in the radically changed social context of contemporary desert Australia. This presentation will therefore examine what Miss Pink can tell us about the Milpirri Festival as a catalyst for maintaining Warlpiri culture in balance with others into the future.