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Aboriginal missions in South Australia: Ernabella

Guide to resources relating to the history of Aboriginal missions in South Australia including records created by these missions.


AIATSIS. South Australian Protector's reports can be browsed by year. Keyword searching within each report can locate relevant information.

Ara Irititja Project.

National Museum of Australia collection. Search 'Ernabella'. 

Schooling: Richard Kanari reads Eric Api's letter. From Right Wrongs website.

Ernabella records

Records for the Ernabella Mission are held by the Northern Territory Archives Service, the State Library of South Australia and  Ara Irititja.

Periodical articles

Aboriginal History, vol. 31, 2007. Trudinger, David. 'The Language(s) of Love: JRB Love and contesting tongues at Ernabella Mission Station, 1940-1946.' Also online.

Flinders Journal of History and Politics, vol 27, 2011, Edwards, Bill. ‘A personal journey with Anangu history and politics’. Also online.

Journal of the Anthropological Society of South Australia, vol. 32, nos 1-2, Dec 1999, Macgill, Belinda. ‘ Ernabella Mission School: a critique.’ 

To locate more journal articles, access the State Library's eResources.

Selected South Australian newspapers, published prior to 1955, have been digitised as part of the National Library of Australia’s Trove website.

Further newspaper articles may be identified by using the following, Newspaper index : references to Aborigines in Adelaide newspapers, 1836-1940. 1989.

Getting started

This guide to sources relating to the Ernabella Mission was last updated by Library staff in 2016. It comprises selected material held by the State Library or available online.

To find further material relevant to this topic, try searching with these subject headings in the State Library catalogue:

Ernabella mission
Aboriginal Australians -- Missions -- South Australia -- Ernabella

Or conduct a keyword search using the following term: Ernabella

See also the Library Guide on the Pitjantjatjara people.

For more assistance, talk with staff at the Library's Information Desk or Ask Us.

Books and pamphlets

The Ernabella Mission was located in the Musgrave Ranges in the far north-west of South Australia. One of the last areas of Australia to feel the impact of European settlement, the Pitjantjatjara population lived a relatively unaffected life into the twentieth century. By the 1930s however, prospectors, graziers, and most significantly ‘doggers’ (those who collected dingo scalps in exchange for a Government bounty) had made significant inroads, bringing conflict over land, water and the treatment of Aboriginal women.

After a trip to the Musgrave Ranges in 1935, Dr Charles Duguid petitioned for the establishment of a mission in the area to 'act as a buffer between the Aborigines and the encroaching white man.' The South Australian Government offered £1,000 towards its establishment; Duguid and the Presbyterian church raised the equivalent. The Ernabella Sheep station was chosen as a suitable base, and the land acquired.

From its opening in 1937, a noticeable difference between Ernabella and other Aboriginal missions was the acceptance and promotion of the language and culture of its inhabitants. Christian teachings were offered and encouraged, but staff were also required to learn the Pitjantjatjara language and culture.

In 1970 the administration of the Mission was transferred to the South Australian government, and soon after, in 1974 to the community itself, through the Pitjantjatjara Council. The community, now known as Pukatja is part of the APY Lands.

Duguid, Charles. Doctor goes walkabout, 1977.

Duguid, Charles. Ernabella re-visited: the diary of a pilgrimage, 1946.

Duguid, Phyllis E. An impression of Ernabella, 1938.

Edwards, W. H. Mission in the Musgraves : Ernabella Mission 1937-73, a place of relationships, 2012.

Ernabella news letter, 1941-1957, incomplete. (This has been indexed, to see records enter the title in the source field of the Library catalogue.)

Hilliard, Winifred M. Anangu tjutaku malpa awularinya anu ngaltutjara : 32 years at Ernabella, 1986.

Hilliard, Winifred, M. The people in between: the Pitjantjatjara people of Ernabella, 1976.

Kerin, Rani. Doctor do-good: Charles Duguid and Aboriginal advancement, 1930s-1970s, 2011.

Love, J.R.B. Ernabella, 1937.

Matthew, H.C. (ed). The Aborigines calling, 1940.

Pitjantjatjara Tjukurpa, 1967-1969. Newsletter of the mission. (In Pitjantjatjara)

Owen, J. Eric. A visitor's diary: Ernabella patrol 1943, 1943.

Sheppard, Nancy. Sojourn on another planet, 2004.

Survival in our own land : 'Aboriginal' experiences in 'South Australia' since 1836, Ch. 32 ‘Ernabella’.

Crayon drawing

Crayon drawing by Langaliki, Ernabella 1940 PRG 1218/12c/1/122.

Archival material

Hilliard, Winifred M. Papers relating to Ernabella and Ernabella Arts Inc.

Love, JRB. Papers of James Robert Beattie Love, Presbyterian clergyman and missionary at Ernabella.

Mountford, Bessie Ilma. Diaries. Includes a diary kept during a stay at Ernabella in 1940.

Mountford-Sheard Collection

This record group comprises a unique collection of material amassed by C. P. Mountford during a career spanning the 1930s to the 1960s and includes material relating to the Ernabella mission

Access to Mountford-Sheard Collection

All access to the Mountford-Sheard Collection is by prior arrangement.

Please consult the catalogue and the list of Mountford's expeditions on this guide to ascertain which parts of the collection you wish to access.

For enquiries contact Ask Us 

If the material that you wish to access is deemed to contain sacred/secret content it cannot be viewed without permission from the relevant Aboriginal community.

Permission will also have to be sought if you wish to copy or publish images that contain Aboriginal people or Aboriginal intellectual property or traditional knowledge.

It is the responsibility of the customer to obtain these permissions.