HerStory Archive

BAIN, Margaret Sterling

Born: 1923

Died: 14/03/2018

Special Achievements:

     Pioneer Missionary who was insightful and successful in cross cultural communication, and community development in Finke/Aputula.  She was greatly respected and trusted by the Aboriginal people through her willingness to listen, learn, be compassionate, and culturally empowering to them.  On 31 December 1976, she was awarded OBE (Aboriginal Welfare).

     Margaret worked as a teacher on Mornington Island during 1956-59.  From 1961-67 she served in Ernabella and was Assistant to the Superintendent in administration and Christian instruction.  During this time, she visited Finke to collect supplies for Ernabella from the train and to get to know and befriend the Aboriginal people who lived there.  In 1968 she pioneered alone a new mission work at Finke.  Some of the developments in Finke included a water supply, septic tanks, fences, land for housing and jobs on the land then in the Aputula Store.  This was followed by work in the Aputula Construction Company, (with the help of John McNeil), where local Finke people learnt skills which enabled them to build their houses, a Medical Clinic, and later a hospital and church.  As she had opportunity Margaret encouraged people to grow in their relationship with God.

     The insights Margaret gained over the years brought to her attention the different world view of “traditional Aboriginals, that is, people for whom an indigenous language is their first language and who may well live on a remote community”* and Westerners.  To “assist Aboriginals and Westerners to achieve greater mutual understanding and productive relationships”** she studied at Monash University gaining a M.A. (Anthropology) in 1979.  Dr Jan Richardson brings perspective on Margaret’s understanding in a conference paper she presented in Perth at the National Social, and Welfare and Community, Workers Conference 2006.***  “Frustration and anger can arise when, despite mutual goodwill, communication breaks down between first-language Indigenous speakers and first-language English speakers.  Margaret Bain’s research provides new insights into why and offers ways to craft language that is clear and meaningful in both cultures.”

     Two publications resulting from Margaret’s study are:

Bain, Margaret S. 1992.  “The Aboriginal-White Encounter:  Towards Better Communication.”  SIL Occasional Papers No 2, Australian Aborigines and Islanders Branch, Summer Institute of Linguistics, Darwin.

* **Bain, Margaret S.  2005.  “‘WHITE MEN ARE LIARS’ - Another Look at Aboriginal-Western Interactions.”  Published in Australia by AuSIL Inc., PO Box 8794, Alice Springs NT 0871.

Margaret also wrote many other publications on Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Australian relations.

Additional Information:

On 31 December 1976 she was awarded Order of the British Empire for Aboriginal welfare.

Margaret's papers and other archival material is held in the following collections:

Strehlow Research Centre
Margaret’s letters to her family 1959-84, 55 personal diaries, many photographs and 17 boxes of
Kodak slides, 16 manila folders of various papers and notes, Ara Irititja correspondence, Aputula
Aboriginal family tree, 37 various library books.
61 Larapinta Dve, Araluen, Alice Springs 0870 NT
Phone: 0889511111


Northern Territory Archive Service - Oral History Program
An oral history interview by Stuart Traynor in 2013 with Margaret. Reference is: NTRS3678
NT Archive Service 58 Hartley St, Alice Springs 0870, Phone: 08 89515669

Ara Irititja Archives http:www.irititja.com
To this official archive for the Pitjantjatjara people Margaret donated many papers, documents and
newsletters and approximately 800 photographs related to her work in Ernabella and Finke. She
also donated approximately 200 items which had been made by the Indigenous people
of Ernabella South Australia, Mornington Island, Queensland Gulf, Aurukun and Cape York,
Queensland.
Ara Irititja Project, PO Box 1234 Marleston, South Australia 5033 Phone: 08 8226 4873


Resources

  • Document - Margaret Sterling Bain 07.06.1923 - 14.03.2018

    Biography provided by, and used with permission of, Margaret Bain's family.

    View File


  • Document - Effective consultation in remote communities: a new perspective on the language we use

    Unpublished conference paper by Dr. Jan Richardson. This paper was written in close conjunction with Margaret Bain and gives an excellent extra dimension to explaining and applying the insights Margaret gained and Margaret's standing on an international scale.

    Provided by, and used with permission of, Dr. Jan Richardson.

    View File


  • References

    (May 17-18 2014).  Margaret Bain:  Celebrating Finke Church and Community.


  • Image - Margaret Bain

    Photo provided by, and used with permission of, Margaret Bain's family.


  • Image - Margaret Bain

    Photo provided by, and used with permission of, Margaret Bain's family.


  • Image - Marg with spider web

    Photo provided by, and used with permission of, Margaret Bain's family.


  • Image - Apatula

    Photo provided by, and used with permission of, Margaret Bain's family.


  • Image - Margaret Bain Hospital, Apatula

    Photo provided by, and used with permission of, Margaret Bain's family.


  • Image - Margaret Bain's caravan

    Photo provided by, and used with permission of, Margaret Bain's family.


  • Image - Margaret Sterling Bain plaque

    Photo provided by, and used with permission of, Margaret Bain's family.