• Entry type: Person
  • Entry ID: AWE6154

Ryan, Dawn

(1938 – 1999)
  • Born 1 January, 1938
  • Died 5 January, 1999
  • Occupation Academic, Anthropologist, Lecturer


Dawn Ryan was an anthropologist who undertook extensive fieldwork in Papua New Guinea.


Dawn Ryan was brought up in the country town of Casino in northern New South Wales. Whilst still at high school, Dawn’s interest in anthropology began, brought on by her access to a library of books on Papua New Guinea at the local RSL.

In 1955, after obtaining a Commonwealth scholarship and a bursary from the University of Sydney, Dawn began her anthropological studies. She graduated from the University of Sydney in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and went on to undertake an MA, with her research focusing on the Toaripi of the Papuan Gulf. Dawn’s thesis, Social Change among the Toaripi, Papua, was based on her research in the village of Uritai, conducted from March 1960 to March 1962.

On completion of her Master’s thesis, Dawn worked as a research assistant with the New Guinea Research Unit in Port Moresby, from 1963 to 1964. This fieldwork formed the basis of her PhD thesis Rural and Urban Villagers: A Bi-Local Social System in Papua, which she completed at the University of Hawaii in 1970.

Dawn lectured part-time in Hawaii in 1970, before taking up a lectureship at the newly formed Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University. She became a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Macquarie in 1974.

Dawn passed away in 1999 after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in mid-December 1998.


Archival resources

  • National Library of Australia, Manuscript Collection
    • Papers of Dawn Ryan, 19-- [manuscript]
    • Rural and urban villagers: a bi-local social system in Papua
    • Social change among the Toaripi, Papua [manuscript]/ Dawn Ryan