Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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Schenk, Isobel May

BEM

Occupation
Matron and Matron

Summary

Isobel May Schenk worked for many years alongside her husband, Reverend Rodolphe Samuel Schenk (1888-1969), at the Mt Margaret Mission in Western Australia. Rev. Schenk established the mission, located between Leonora and Laverton, in 1921, under the auspices of the Aboriginal Inland Mission (later the United Aborigines Mission). According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Rev. Schenk, Isobel Schenk was 'a typist' who 'taught crafts to the women' on the mission. The mission was made a central 'rationing station' and was visited by anthropologists and researchers including A. P. Elkin, Phyllis Kaberry, J. B. Birdsell and Norman Tindale. Along with the Chief Protector of Aborigines in Western Australia, these researchers engaged in the assimilation debates of the day. Rev. Schenk's 'unsympathetic and fundamentalist interference with traditional practices' attracted criticism from Elkin, and resistance from Aboriginal elders. Many Aboriginal children were taken to the mission, which had a children's home and a hospital, and mining- and pastoral-related work was carried out there.

Isobel Schenk was appointed to the Order of the British Empire (31 December 1977) for work in Aboriginal welfare.

Sources used to compile this entry: Paisley, Fiona, Loving protection? : Australian feminism and aboriginal women's rights 1919-1939, Melbourne University Press, Carlton South, 2000; Reece, R. H. W., 'Schenk, Rodolphe Samuel (1888-1969)', in Australian Dictionary of Biography Online, Australian National University, 2006, http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A110547b.htm.

Archival resources

JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia

  • [Interview with Kathleen Claire Mack, nurse] [sound recording] / [interviewed by Gail O'Hanlon]., 1995, OH2639; JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia. Details
  • [May O'Brien - links with Mt Margaret Mission, teaching, work with the Aboriginal community], 2002, OH2551 A/m; JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia. Details
  • Records of Mt. Margaret Aboriginal Mission, 1921-1966 [manuscript], 1921 - 1966, MN 1518, ACC 4796A; JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia. Details
  • [Schenk family] Papers, [19--?] [manuscript]., MN 1982; ACC 5602A; JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia. Details

Clare Land

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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

http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/IMP0192b.htm

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