Archive for the ‘Miss Pink’ Category

Olive Muriel Pink

 Miss Olive Muriel Pink – 1884 – 1975

Miss Olive Muriel Pink was an extraordinary individual – she contributed to the development of the field of anthropology, campaigned vigorously for the rights of Aboriginal Australians long before it was fashionable to do so, was an accomplished artist, and was the visionary force behind the development of the first Arid Zone Botanic Garden in the southern hemisphere.

Miss Pink did not arrive in Alice Springs until she was well in to her forties, arriving first in 1930 on an extended sketching holiday in which she travelled on the Ghan railcar and stopped off at various railway sidings where she set up camp to sketch wildflowers. The University of Tasmania has an excellent website that showcases a significant collection of Miss Pink’s wildflower sketches.

Clianthus_formosus MIss Olive Muriel PinkCrotalaria_dissitiflora Miss Olive Muriel PinkCullen australasicum Miss Olive Muriel Pink


Over the next decade Miss Pink visited Central Australia several times, living variously on the outskirts of Alice Springs or in the Tanami Desert where she undertook some of the significant early anthropological studies of Arrernte and Warlpiri people. She published some of her research in well-respected anthropological journals, but she never formally completed her academic thesis due to a combination of ill health during her fieldwork, competition for the same Aboriginal informants with more established anthropologists, and withdrawal of university support for her research.

Erythrina_vespertilio_pods Miss Olive Muriel PinkErythrina_vespertilio_leaves Miss Olive Muriel Pink

From 1942-1946 Miss Pink lived with Warlpiri people at Thompson’s Rockhole in the Tanami Desert, where she attempted to set up a ‘secular sanctuary’ for Warlpiri – a campaign that engaged her considerable lobbying skills and consumed a significant amount of her time over the rest of her life. Returning to Alice Springs in 1946, she purchased a decommissioned army hut on Gregory Terrace and lived there for the next decade, surviving on a meagre income obtained from selling flowers and fruit that she grew, and from her part-time job cleaning the courthouse.

Olive Pink Photo

In October 1956, at the age of 72, she set up her tent on the grounds of what is now Olive Pink Botanic Garden and lobbied NT politicians vigorously to establish a Flora Reserve on the site in order to protect native flora and provide a site where locals could visit and learn about desert environments. The Arid Regions Native Flora Reserve was gazetted in 1956, and Miss Pink was appointed as Honorary Curator, a role she maintained until her death on 6th July 1975.

Miss Pink’s hut was rebuilt within the Reserve on the site now occupied by the Visitor Centre, and she moved into this slightly more comfortable accommodation in 1958. Many of the letters she wrote over the next 20 years were addressed form “Home Hut” and there are many stories of favoured locals or dignitaries who were invited to afternoon tea with Miss Pink at Home Hut. The fare was often tea or lime juice cordial with madeira cake – a tradition retained in the ritual celebration for Miss Pink’s birthday at the Garden each year.

Johnny J YannarilyiDuring her time at the Garden, Miss Pink and her Warlpiri gardener of many years, Johnny Jampijinpa Yannarilyi, planted various local native trees and shrubs as well as an eclectic collection of garden flowers, agaves and other introduced plants on her quarter acre block around her hut. One of Miss Pink’s favourite plants seems to have been the Sturt Bean Tree (or Batswing Coral Tree: Erythrina vespertilio) and she planted over 30 of these trees from seed she collected from Aileron Station in the 1960s. In her diary notes she recorded names of various dignitaries against individual trees, and at least two of these named trees still survive in the Garden today (despite the fact that this species is very frost sensitive and not very well suited to our cold winters).

An excellent biography of Miss Pink has been written by Professor Julie Marcus. Entitled The indomitable Miss Pink – a life in anthropology the biography covers Miss Pink’s life in Central Australia in particular detail. The following information provides a summary of Miss Pink’s life – particularly her work and life in Central Australia. Born in 1884 in Hobart, Olive Muriel Pink developed a love of nature early in life and went on to study art first in Hobart Technical College, and later when her family moved to Sydney studied art in Julian Ashton’s School of Art.

Peter Latz launches the ‘Guide to the Garden’

Author and renowned Central Australian botanist Peter Latz launched the Olive Pink Botanic Garden’s ‘Guide to the Garden Booklet’ on the 5th November.

Peter, along with Senior Botanist of the Alice Springs Herbarium Peter Jobson, Chair of the Board of Trustees Libby Prell, and the new Curator of the Botanic Garden Ian Coleman spoke briefly on the history, role and future of the Garden.

OPBG Invite internet final

The ‘Guide to the Garden Booklet’ contains a brief history of the Garden and of Miss Pink, a guide to significant walks and plants in the Garden, information on local native plants for the home garden and a feature story by Peter Latz.

Peter Latz, who has been central to the development of the bushfood and medicinal plant collection, describes the Garden as ‘a globally unique treasure’.

With the 30th anniversary of the public opening of the Garden in 2015, the Trustees and the new Curator Ian Coleman are revitalizing both the Garden’s place in the Alice Springs community and economy, and its globally unique and important Central Australian plant collection.

A Curatorial Reference Group, including Peter Latz and other leading Central Australian plant boffins, has been formed to help guide the development of the plant collection, garden beds and displays.

“The ‘Guide to the Garden Booklet’ is the first part of the revitalization. It will be of great interest to both visitors and locals” said Ian Coleman, the new Curator.  “We want the broader Alice community to be part of this revitalization. Sixty locals came along to the launch, so it was a great attendance. Many took a tour of the Garden with Peter Latz and myself, and provided input by filling out a survey on the future direction of the Garden. The survey is available for all visitors to the Garden to fill out”.


Olive Muriel Pink oral history recordings

Listen to a range of colorful characters from central Australia talk about the Miss Pink that they knew. Just click on any of the links below. [audio:|titles=Andrew Jeffery.mp3]     Andrew Jeffery.mp3  [audio:|titles=Bert Sutton.mp3]  Bert Sutton.mp3[audio:|titles=Brian Greenfield]   Brian-Greenfield.mp3 [audio:|titles=Charles Chapman.mp3]  Charles Chapman.mp3 [audio:|titles=Denzil McManus.mp3]  Denzil McManus.mp3 [audio:|titles=Des Nelson (at Miss Pink bday do).mp3]  Des Nelson.mp3  [audio:|titles=George Brown.mp3]  George Brown.mp3  [audio:|titles=Jack Clancy.mp3]  Jack Clancy.mp3