• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE0041

Pink, Olive Muriel

(1884 – 1975)
  • Nationality Australian
  • Born 17 March, 1884, Hobart Tasmania Australia
  • Died 6 July, 1975, Alice Springs Northern Teritory Australia
  • Occupation Anthropologist, Botanical artist


Olive Pink was a botanical artist and anthropologist who campaigned for the rights of Aboriginal people. She was one of few women anthropologists working in a male dominated field in the 1930s and 1940s. Pink positioned herself as an expert on Aboriginal people and campaigned from this basis in her criticism of government officials, missionaries and pastoralists.


Educated in art at Hobart Technical College. Pink worked at the Public Works Department and later the Railways Commission of New South Wales. She studied anthropology at Sydney University with the Workers’ Educational Association and became secretary to the Anthropological Society of NSW. In 1926 & 1927 she travelled to Ooldea on the Transcontinental Line, SA. There she created many of her early drawings of desert flora.

Pink spent much time in the Northern Territory, living first with Arrernte and Warlpiri people and settling eventually in Alice Springs. She was a prolific correspondent, writing many letters to government departments and the press, particularly to represent her beliefs about Aboriginal people and her views on their better treatment by the government. Historian Julie Marcus suggests that Pink eventually lost faith in the potential of Anthropology to assist Aboriginal people, and abandoned the discipline later in life.

In 1955 she applied for the reservation of an area of land on the eastern bank of the Todd River as a flora reserve. In 1956 the Australian Arid Regions Flora Reserve of 20 hectares was gazetted. Pink and her gardener Johnny Jambijimba Yannarilyi developed the garden, where Pink lived until her death. The garden was then renamed the Olive Pink Flora Reserve, and now contains over 300 of Central Australia’s plant species.


Published resources

  • Resource Section
  • Resource
  • Book Section
    • The Beauty, Simplicity and Honour of Truth: Olive Pink in the 1940s, Marcus, Julie, 1993
  • Journal Article
    • The Landowners in the Northern Division of the Aranda Tribe, Olive Pink, 1936
    • Spirit Ancestors in a Northern Aranda Horde Country, Olive Pink, 1933
  • Book
    • Imagined destinies : Aboriginal Australians and the doomed race theory, 1880-1939, Russell McGregor, 1997
    • Yours truly, Olive M. Pink, Marcus, Julie, 1991c
    • The Indomitable Miss Pink: A Life in Anthropology, Marcus, Julie, 2001
    • Talkin' up to the white woman : Aboriginal women and feminism, Moreton-Robinson, Aileen, 2000
    • First in Their Field: Women and Australian Anthropology, Marcus, Julie; Lepervanche, Marie de; McBryde, Isabel; Prior, Mary Ellen Murray; White, Isobel; Morris, Miranda; O'Gorman, Anne; Marcus, Julie and Cheater, Christine, 1993
  • Journal
    • Bulletin of the Olive Pink Society, Olive Pink Society and Research Centre for Women's Studies, University of Adelaide, 1989-1999
  • Edited Book
    • 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology, Radi, Heather, 1988
  • Site Exhibition

Archival resources

  • Northern Territory Archives Service
    • Olive Pink Papers
  • National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    • Papers of Ernest William Pearson Chinnery, 1897-1971 [manuscript]
    • Papers of Sir Paul Hasluck, 1925-1989 [manuscript]
  • Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National University
    • Tom and Mary Wright collection deposit 1
    • Tom and Mary Wright Collection deposit 2
  • National Archives of Australia, Northern Territory Office
    • Flora and fauna reserve Alice Springs - Miss Olive PINK - General correspondence
    • Alice Springs Native Flora Reserve Olive Pink
    • Miss Olive Pink /secular Sanctuary Granites Tanami District
    • Flora and Fauna Reserve. Alice Springs (Miss Olive Pink - General correspondence)
    • Native Flora Reserve Olive Pink
    • Miss Olive Pink. Application for permit to enter Aboriginal Reserves General Correspondence
  • National Archives of Australia, National Office, Canberra
    • PINK, Olive
  • South Australian Museum Archives
    • Field diaries, notebooks and other data relating to fieldwork
  • University of Tasmania Library, Special/Rare Collection
    • Olive Pink Collection
  • National Library of Australia
    • [Biographical cuttings on Olive Pink, anthropologist, containing one or more cuttings from newspapers or journals]
  • AIATSIS Manuscript and Rare Books Collection
    • A patron and a friend : Olive Pink and J.B. Cleland
    • Warlpiri vocabulary slips / by Olive Pink, c1934
    • Letter, Miss Olive Pink to T.G.H. Strehlow, 8th September, 1946
    • Papers of Olive Muriel Pink
    • On policies for the Northern Territory Aborigines : an open letter, no.4
    • Collection of letters, documents, interview transcripts from [depositor's] collection on Ooldea closure and the Maralinga tests
  • ACT Heritage Library
    • RW Boden Work Files and Reports [relating to Olive Pink and the Olive Pink Society]

Related entries

  • Associate
    • Bates, Daisy May (1859 - 1951)
  • Related Organisations
    • Olive Pink Society (1988 - )
  • Related Places
    • Olive Pink Botanic Garden (1956 - )
  • Related Women
    • Kaberry, Phyllis Mary (1910 - 1977)
  • Related Concepts
    • Women and Botany