Early Anthropologist, Aboriginal Rights Activist and Botanical Artist
Olive Pink was born in Hobart on the 17th of March 1884. She studied at Miss Ayton’s School, and then art at the Hobart Technical School and the Julian Ashton Art School. Thereafter she taught art in Hobart, as well as working as a tracer for the Public Works Department and later the Railways Commission of New South Wales.
Travelling the railway between Quorn, SA and Alice Springs in 1926-27 after a drought had broken, Olive sketched flowers wherever railway workers reported them. The University of Tasmania Archives have 64 of her sketches, in pencil and crayon, of the flora of the arid regions of South Australia and around Alice Springs (c1930 and 1957-60).
Olive studied anthropology at Sydney University with the Workers' Educational Association and became secretary to the Anthropological Society of NSW, doing fieldwork in Central Australia during the holidays.
Retrenched in 1930, she moved to the Northern Territory and lived first with the Aboriginal people in the Tanami Desert and settled eventually in Alice Springs. She lived with the Walbir from 1942-46 where she tried to set up a communal cooperative. She worked for Aboriginal land rights and female employment in Aboriginal affairs.
In 1955 she made application to the Assistant Administrator for reservation of an area of land on the eastern bank of the Todd River in the Northern Territory as a flora reserve. In 1956, the Australian Arid Regions Flora Reserve of 20 hectares was gazetted. Initial developments as a botanic garden were made by Miss Pink and her gardener, Johnny Jambijimba Yannarilyi.
Miss Pink lived within the garden until her death after which it was renamed as the Olive Pink Botanic Garden. This was opened to the public in 1985 and contains over 300 of Central Australia's plant species. The Olive Pink Society formed in 1988 and continues to address issues of race and gender pertaining to anthropological study.
On the Saturday afternoon/evening nearest Olive Pink's birthday (March 17th) Olive Pink Botanic Garden celebrates her birthday by holding a special event of a concert, invited talk or other social get together.
References: Marcus, Julie (Ed), First in Their Field: Women and Australian Anthropology, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1993.