Woman MacKenzie, Geraldine (1900 - 1980)

Prahran, Victoria, Australia
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Educator and Missionary
Alternative Names
  • Storrs, Geraldine (Maiden)

Written by Patricia Grimshaw, The University of Melbourne

Geraldine MacKenzie was a leading innovator in the western education of primary school age Aboriginal children in Australia and Papua New Guinea. She was born Adelaide Propsting Storrs in 1900 in Prahran, Melbourne, the second of four children of an Anglican clergyman, the Reverend William Storrs and his wife, Adelaide Storrs. Geraldine attended the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School (Merton Hall), following which she undertook a B.A. degree at the University of Melbourne. After completing a teaching diploma she became a schoolteacher and became engaged to a trainee Presbyterian missionary, Bill (William) MacKenzie, son of mission parents in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu).

Geraldine had been immersed at school and home in positive attitudes to mission service: her father was the child of English mission parents on an Indian mission, and her younger sister eventually worked alongside her husband in an African Anglican mission. After their marriage in 1925 Geraldine and Bill MacKenzie proceeded to the extensive mission of Aurukun on the western coast of Cape York where they worked among the Wik people for 40 years. As was customary, with mission bodies, Geraldine's work as the salaried missionary's wife was conducted in a voluntary capacity, but proved to be complex and demanding.

In her autobiography written fifteen years after the couple's retirement, Geraldine reported that the greatest proportion of her time was devoted to nursing the sick, along with improving Aboriginal health and reducing infant mortality. She taught at the mission school and from 1945 -1965 served as its (honorary) head and became notable for creating a school curriculum adapted in content to Aboriginal culture, using objects and experiences familiar to Wik children. The materials she produced were illustrated and appeared as The First Australians' First [to Sixth] Book with a Melbourne publisher in 1951 and 1952. Although she and her assistants taught in English according to Queensland government demands, the MacKenzies did not discourage the use of Aboriginal languages. The readers' use spread to other northern missions and were adapted for schools in Australia's colony of Papua New Guinea. Geraldine MacKenzie died in Melbourne in 1980.

Archival Resources

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

  • Diaries, papers and photographs relating to the 40 years at Aurukun of the Rev. Bill and Mrs Geraldine MacKenzie, 1901 - 1977, MS 2483; Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). Details

Melbourne Girls Grammar School Archives

  • A Life of Loving Service: Geraldine MacKenzie - Forty Years at Aurukun, c. April 1981; Melbourne Girls Grammar School Archives. Details

Published Resources


  • MacKenzie, Geraldine, Aurukun Diary: Forty Years with the Aborigines, The Aldersgate Press, Melbourne, Victoria, 1981. Details

Online Resources

See also