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Baillie, Helen ( - 1970)

Indigenous activist and Nurse


Helen Baillie was an activist on behalf of Indigenous people at a time when urban white people were beginning to understand the full extent of the discrimination they experienced. She believed that because Aboriginal people were the original owners of the land, the descendants of settlers had a duty of care to them. A member of the Melbourne middle class, she opened her house on Punt Road as a hostel to Aboriginal people, from the 1930s to the 1950s. Baillie travelled widely in order to learn about Aboriginal matters and she also encouraged women activists to seek professional employment in Aboriginal affairs.


Baillie attended the Aldworth Girls' Grammar School in East Malvern and on completion of her study she travelled to England to undertake midwifery training at the London Maternity Hospital. In her late thirties, Baillie returned to Australia and it was during her sea journey that she became enthralled by the work of Mary Bennett, an internationally renowned activist on behalf of Australian Aboriginal people.

In 1932, Baillie formed the Victorian Aboriginal Fellowship Group and became their Honorary Secretary. In 1933 she also became involved with the Victorian Aboriginal Group; a group with similar objectives to the Fellowship. The Victorian Aboriginal Group co-ordinated a meeting to launch their campaign in September 1933, which brought together a considerable number of groups, including the Aboriginal Fellowship Group, The Women's Citizen's Movement, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Also involved were the Student Christian Movement, the United Aboriginal Mission, the Society of Friends and the Victorian League. Helen Baillie spoke at the meeting, alongside many others. Whenever an opportunity arose to present Aboriginal issues before a public audience, Helen Baillie took it. This was the case when she was made a delegate for Australia at the convention of the British Commonwealth League in 1935.

Bailie was a life member of the Australian Aborigines league and she also liaised with the Association for the Protection of Native Races in Sydney and the Anti-Slavery and Aborigines Protection Society in London. After 1951, Baillie became a member of additional activist groups, including the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the Council for Aboriginal Rights.

In addition, Baillie volunteered as a nurse for the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War and also worked for the Spanish Relief Committee in Melbourne.


Honorary Secretary - Aborigines Fellowship Group
Member - Council for Aboriginal Rights
Member - Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Life Member - Australian Aborigines' League
Late 1931 - 1932
Formed the Victorian Aboriginal Fellowship Group
Delegate - For Australia at the convention of the British Commonwealth League

Sources used to compile this entry: Helen Baillie,; Stonnington's Indigenous History,; Sherlock, P. & Grimshaw, P., 'One Woman's Concern for Social Justice: The Letters of Helen Baillie to Farnham Maynard, 1933-36', in Holden, Colin (ed.), Anglo-Catholicism in Melbourne: Papers to Mark the 150th Anniversary of St Peter's Eastern Hill 1846-1996, Department of History, University of Melbourne, Parkville, 1997, pp. 85-98.

Related entries

Archival resources

National Archives of Australia, Canberra Office

National Library of Australia

  • Papers of Joan Kingsley-Strack, 1908-1978 [manuscript], 1908 - 1978, MS 9551; Kingsley-Strack, Joan; National Library of Australia. Details

Alannah Croom

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National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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