Compulsive Reader: Review of Olive Muriel Pink

Review of Olive Muriel Pink:

Her radical & idealistic life

A poetic journy

Colleen Keating

Ginninderra Press 

3rd September 2021 ISBN: 9781761091599, 320 pages, paperback, $40

by Beatriz Copello

I do not think there is a better way to honour a woman of the calibre of Olive Muriel Pink than to write a book of poetry about her life.  Colleen Keating has done just that, she has written a poetic journey about this unsung Australian heroine. 

With a sharp eye and lyric touch, the world of Olive Pink becomes alive, it is a passionate story told with knowledge. It is evident that the poet has invested years researching the life of Olive Pink. The poet says: “I have been researching, writing and thinking about Olive Pink for over a decade now.  The discoveries that come along the way – the portraits unveiled – are very stirring.”  

This collection covers many years in the life of Pink, it starts in 1884 and finishes in 1975. The book also has a foreword, a prologue and a chronology as well as notes and bibliography. The labour of love that went into writing this book would grant the author a doctorate.

The author in Notes explains that she aimed to write a book that fell between an accurate scholarly presentation of Olive Pink’s life and her own personal interpretation of it.

Olive Pink was a fighter for justice who advocated for the rights of First Nations People, she was also an anthropologist, artist and gardener. Keating from the first poem in the book alerts the readers about what they will encounter throughout the pages, in this excerpt from “Olive the pioneer” she writes:

Who is Olive?
She defied the silence
caused discomfort
annoyed the authorities.
Her letters shouted from the edge.
She heard budgerigar dreaming
and drummed to a different tune.
She pushed against the colonial tide.
If the answer is ‘eccentric’
in her death she will be twice dismissed. 

Who is Olive? History asks.
She broke the silence
her voice for the voiceless 
remembered the forgetting.
She visioned justice in the courts.
Her feet knew country.
She carried red dust
under the fingernails of her heart.
She listened to elders, learnt language
wrote down stories, sketched arid plants
medicinal, nutritional, ritual.
If the answer is ‘anthropologist’
in her death she will be twice honoured. 

If Keating wrote music, I would say she does not miss a beat, when she raises issues about Olive’s past, she does it with conviction and poignant comments, like in the following excerpt from “A new lodestone”:

The grim spectre of injustice
towards Aboriginal tribe
taunts Olive out of her grief
jolts her from self pity.
Like a silk petticoat pulled over her hair
the air is static in its darkness.
It bleeds through a colander of whitewash words

  • progress jobs, growth.

Its handprint blood-red.

The poet also utilizes very vivid imagery, the readers become Olive, we can see, smell, hear what she experiences.  Keating appeals to the senses, the following poem “Restless” illustrates this: 

In her dingy office Olive yearns
for the vast open country, large skies,
hazy horizons, a slung kettle hissing
and spitting its leak over the fire.
Burnt flesh and sizzle
of goanna still fill her nostrils.
Olive walks country in her sleep –
the pungent smell of camels
sweaty bodies, blazoned glare, flies
dust-blown storms.
That red dust under
the colour of her heart
and patter of Pitjantjatjara children
still running giggling beside her
lingers like the balm of an Indian summer.  

The poet has the skill to write about Olive’s powerful emotions without sentimentality or corniness, through these strong emotions readers can form a picture in their mind of Olive’s personality. The following excerpt from the poem titled “Heady days” is a good example of the Keating’s ability:

Olive is energised by academia.
The scissor-cut horizon
of her desert experience
challenges like a mirage.
She seizes every chance to argue,
‘The root cause is not malnutrition or disease –
They camouflage facts, treat the wrong symptoms.’
Heated discussion rises.
Angrily she fights for breath.
‘Even the most ignorant know the problems –
White man’s aggression, sexual abuse
fear, venereal disease, land dispossession.
We like to deride these facts.’
She flushes, her neck prickles as she continuous,
‘Full-bloods need their own protected country
not mission reserves.’
Her tone is strident.
‘Daily handouts from stations
Keep them tied to white man power.’

Olive Pink struggled all her life to be able to do what men were able to do, in the following poem “High Hopes” Keating captures this desire but also very cleverly imagines her mood in such a difficult situation.

Over dinner her enthusiasm bubbles.
‘After my thesis I plan
a full year of research among the Arrernte’
she confidently tells the Professor
and others grouped around the table.
‘I would like to be included
in your next museum expedition.
It will reduce my research expenses 
and my anthropology will enhance the group.’
Silence.
Unease around the room
as lightening awaits a clap of thunder.
Awkward shifts and exchanged glances
the embarrassed clearing of throats.
From her left in a deep tone,
‘That would not be possible …
‘But you took Ted Strehlow on your trip last year!’
‘… for a woman,’ mumbles the professor.
Exposed, Olive’s heart races.
She hopes they don’t notice the burn
of her cheeks.
She avoids eye contact
gazes out as one with miles to go
restless to be on her way.
She needs desert air.
‘Why does gender cause such heart break?’
she broods into the night.
‘Why wasn’t I born a man.”

I would like to congratulate Colleen Keating not only for writing this incredible book but also for honouring a woman from the past which like many other Australian heroines are often forgotten or not given credit for their achievements. Reading about Olive Muriel Pink will inspire you and give you strength to struggle to achieve your aims.

About the Reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, she writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. The author’s poetry books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Flowering Roots, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish).  Beatriz’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications.  She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.

 

 

“A triumph of reconciliation” Emeritus Professor Lyndall Ryan AM FAHA

 

 

Only being aware of the past 

                 can we understand the present 

                                   to live into the future 

The radical and idealistic Olive Pink worked on the edge of the

 frontier of Australian history through the turbulent first 75 years

 of the 20th century. A woman warrior for Indigenous people, she tolerated

 no cover-up by individuals, society, governments or the law.

* * * * * 

With a meticulously researched, absorbing verse narrative, Colleen Keating

brings Olive Muriel Pink’s significant, neglected history to life with distinctive,

beautiful imagery. In powerful lyrical stanzas, she tells the story of Olive’s struggle

for recognition as a female anthropologist, her life-long work for the rights

of the Warlpiri and Arrernte people she loved and lived among, and the creation

of her arid garden. ‘High on a camel swaying to and fro /with a straight back

and a broad smile / Olive rides into her future.”  Olive’s persistence, her triumphs

and her passion for justice make for uplifting and compelling reading.          

   – Pip Griffin, poet

 

Olive Pink is one of Australia’s  unsung heroines.  In this original and

deeply moving biographical verse novel, Colleen Keating enables Olive Pink’s

experiences with Aboriginal people in Central Australia to emerge with

sensitivity, intellectual curiosity, understanding and grace.  It is a triumph

for reconciliation and will surely enter the annals of Australian literature.’   

    Emeritus Professor Lyndall Ryan  AM FAHA 

 

A play, a dance, books, a proposed film, an opera and now a wonderful

narrative poem by Colleen Keating. I wonder what Miss Pink would think

about all this attention – her battles and passions appreciated at last!!

      Dr. Gillian Ward,   Curator and author

 

Olive Pink’s life floats off the page – very much the character I’ve come

 to know and admire while translating her experience into music across

 this past decade.  Colleen Keating gives us a seriously beautiful work

 based on research that brings Olive vividly to life.  It is wonderful

 to see the astonishing story of this Australian woman Olive Pink, 

given the attention she so deserves. Such a visionary.

      –  Emeritus Professor Anne Boyd AM  Composer of the Olive Pink Opera

 

An invaluable and powerful addition to the story of Australian women who

 lived their lives working for equality and social justice.  A joy to read.

      – Elizabeth Keating-Jones  MA

Looking for Olive. Member’s Talk at SWW on Olive Muriel Pink by Colleen Keating

THE SOCIETY OF WOMEN WRITERS NSW Inc.

LITERARY EVENT

WEDNESDAY 8TH SEPTEMBER 2021

I .00 PM–2.15 PM

ZOOM FOR TWO WONDERFUL SPEAKERS

MEMEBER SPEAKER – COLLEEN KEATING

Looking for Olive – the radical and idealistic life of Olive Muriel Pink

by Colleen Keating

 

Colleen, author of five poetry books  with Ginninderra Press and 5 poetry chap books  with Picaro Poets will talk about the inspiration, development and publication of her latest book,  A Poetic Journey with  an Australian women Olive Muriel Pink .  Colleen first became curious after visiting the Olive Pink Botanical Garden  in Alice Springs on a holiday and unable to find local information about Olive.  Back home she became immersed in the passions and struggles of Olive Pink’s story, a pioneer Australian woman of the first half of the 20th century.(1884-1975).  Here was a justice warrior, an advocate for the rights of the Indigenous people, a trained anthropologist, artist, gardener, botanist and curator.  And one whose song needs to be sang.  

 

KEYNOTE SPEAKER – JULIE JANSON

A woman writer’s journey – the restorative justice of writing Australian Indigenous themes

by Julie Janson

 

Keynote speaker – Julie Janson: A woman writer’s journey –  the restorative justice of writing Australian Indigenous themes

Julie is a Burruberongal woman of Darug nation, Hawkesbury River NSW. She grew up with an Aboriginal father and mother of English descent in Boronia Park, Sydney.
She is a teacher, artist, novelist, playwright and poet, and a recipient of the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Poetry Prize and the Judith Wright Poetry Prize.
Julie’s published novels are The Crocodile Hotel (Cyclops Press 2015), The Light Horse Ghost (Nibago 2018) and Benevolence (Magabala 2020). This latest novel will be published by Harper Collins in USA and UK 2021.
In a career as a playwright, Julie’s plays have been produced in Australia, Indonesia and USA:
  *  Two plays-Black Mary and Gunjies (Aboriginal Studies Press 1996)
Gunjies, nominated for an AWGIE
The Crocodile Hotel, nominated for Patrick White Award and Griffin Award
  *  Black Mary produced by Company B Belvoir St Theatre 1997
The Eyes of Marege, Sydney Opera House Studio, Adelaide Festival Centre 2007 and Makassar, Sulawesi
Julie was fortunate to present at the Adelaide Writers Festival 2021, Bendigo Writers Festival 2021 and Byron Bay Writers Festival.
She has also experienced Asialink Literature Residencies Indonesia 2000, 2003; Varuna residency; Tyrone Guthrie Writing Residency, Ireland 2006; Australia Council BR Whiting Residency Rome 2013; Listowel Ireland Writers Festival and Belfast Book Week 2016.

To book and pay:
$10 members, $15 non-members

Book via TryBooking: https://www.trybooking.com/BTSFK

or by direct debit:

The Society of Women Writers NSW Inc
BSB: 062 018
Account:  00950433
Code:  VM (for Keynote Speaker) or VMW (for Workshop)

Email Amanda Mark – Email Amanda –
with your name, receipt number and date of event

 

 

 

Olive Muriel Pink: her radical & idealistic Life by Colleen Keating

PRESS RELEASE:  Olive Muriel Pink: her radical and idealistic life 

Some good news. My new book has arrived. Olive Muriel Pink: her radical & Idealistic life. An Australian women’s story that after you have read it you will want your friends to do the same.  Thank you to Ginninderra Press & the many that have supported me on this long but wonderful journey.

” It is a triumph for reconciliation and will surely enter the
the annals of Australian literature.’
Emeritus Professor Lyndall Ryan AM FAHA

Colleen Keating brings Olive Muriel Pink’s significant, neglected history
to life with distinctive, beautiful imagery. – Pip Griffin, poet.

Available to buy www.ginninderrapress.com.au

Olive Pink Botanic Garden: A research visit.

 

 

Our inland  journey to do some research on the Australian pioneer Olive Pink was done in early March before the Pandemic had been declared. We were aware  of the virus but flying inland seemed very innocent. By the end of the week flying back to Sydney, it was not innocent – we felt on tender hooks to get home. How things can change in one week.

However in that week of pandemic-innocence we had  very rewarding visit with Brekky at the Bean Cafe in the garden with the wallabies and birds and then each day the walks. Later in the day visiting other channels of research. We stayed in the Mecure Motel by the Todd River and behind the Gardens

 

 

Olive Pink Botanic Garden, Alice Springs

The Garden

Today we treasure a globally unique arid zone botanic garden and continues to work towards Miss Pinks vision:

 . . .forty-nine acres of ground on which to preserve and grow native trees, shrubs and flowers – as a ‘soul-feeding antidote to the restless rush and materialism of what ‘modern living’ entails for so many in this isolated town. from Fran Kilgariff

Nestled in the valley of Annie Meyers Hill and bordered by the Todd River is where you will find the Olive Pink Botanic Garden. Its close proximity to the CBD of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, allows visitors and locals alike convenient access to the 16 hectare Garden including the 6 hectares of arid zone plantings in the valley floor and the native vegetation of the encircling hills.

 

Founded in 1956 by Miss Olive Muriel Pink (1884-1975), the Garden was originally gazetted as the Australian Arid Regions Native Flora Reserve with Miss Pink as the Honorary Curator. Prior to this Miss Pink had studied the anthropology of both the Arrernte and Walpiri people and was a great agitator and  advocatefor Aboriginal rights, which lead to her insisting that Aboriginal gardeners receive employment conditions under the award.  Jampitjimpa Yannarilyi  (Johnny) was one of the Aboriginal gardeners whom Miss Pink held in high esteem and was employed in the Garden from 1960 for a period of 12 years.,

From the time of Miss Pink’s death in 1975 until 1985, like minded people rallied to keep Olive’s Mission alive. Local gardeners,  water-conservationist John Blakeman, orthonologist Barry Bucholtz  and many towns folk  with many developments  to preserve the garden as viable. The garden and the Bean Cafe and were opened to the public in 1985as the Olive Pink Flora Reserve, and in 1996 it was renamed to more accurately reflect its purpose as the Olive Pink Botanic Garden. A voluntary seven person Board of Trustees manages the Garden. They draw on experience and expertise in commerce, science, law and tourism and are responsible to the NT Minister for Local Government. On my recent visit I met the present curator Ian Coleman. I had an immediate rapport with Ian as he spoke of his understanding of Olive Pink’s vision and understanding for the park.  He has the sensibility of a spirituality and a philosophy of the story of the land on which the garden stands.

Some aspiring and educational walks wander through the park.
1. An historical walk called the Olive Pink Walk,
2. the Mulga Woodland walk,
3 the Mallee Walk
4 The Arrernte Trail  and the marvellous challenging for us (no longer spritely) called 5. the Annie Meyers Hill walk .

There are Bird groves specialising in bird feeding trees, many seats to sit and enjoy the peace and educational nodes with very informative coloured and modern stories. Education is a key element of the Garden’s ethos with information available about the evolution of Australia’s arid zone flora, the traditional use of plants by Aborigines and local history in the graphic displays housed in in shelter nodes along the tracks.

Another valuable treasure is Peter Latz a renowned Central Australian botanist and garden volanteer. as he says at the end of an article he wrote,

Decades of dedicated work by Olive Pink, Jampiijinpa (Johnny) and other staff as well as countless volunteers has gone into producing this globally unique treasure -trove of bio-diversity and store of potential foods and medicinal cures 

 The Botanical Garden  Newsletter for botanical gardens of Australia and New Zealand. No. 3 July 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blakeman Shelter

 

Livistona palms at the Garden waterhole

 

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The Blakeman Shelter

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Livistona palms at the Garden waterhole

The Garden

Nestled in the valley of Annie Meyers Hill and bordered by the Todd River is where you will find the Olive Pink Botanic Garden. Its close proximity to the CBD of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, allows visitors and locals alike convenient access to the 16 hectare Garden including the 6 hectares of arid zone plantings in the valley floor and the native vegetation of the encircling hills.

Founded in 1956 by Miss Olive Muriel Pink (1884-1975), the Garden was originally gazetted as the Australian Arid Regions Native Flora Reserve with Miss Pink as the Honorary Curator.