On Arrernte country by Colleen Keating


Celebrating the Olive Pink Extraverganza: Revealing a woman ahead of her time,
with garden tours, local plants sales,  poetry readings, art, music,  book launch, dinner under the stars, World renowned Riley Lee playing his  shakuhachi the Japanese bamboo flute with his circular breathing gives us pause to stop . . . draw breath
for the world premiere of Professor Anne Boyd’s Opera based on a day in the  life of this amazing visionary.

Together on Arrernte country 

a garden   a meeting place
a desert oasis
on Caterpillar Dreaming 

from all across the land
an artist   a poet     composer
and writers come together                                                                                  

to walk  read  play music and share
their story  found in the visionary
and activist    Olive Muriel Pink

her voice for Aborigines
dispossessed of their land
their lore  their sacred soaks 

silenced in her life time
 now sings   and dances
 in her arid garden

planned with her cartographer’s eye
with water-wise rocky channels   gutters                                                               
ponds  troughs  mulch

and terrarium effects
encouraging her 600 ‘gallant ones’   *
with havens for bird song

taming the razor earth
for seed    like one cracks lithic earth

breaks flint for life to birth

along rock paved paths   we track
up the Hill to sit and watch
the setting sun caress the nose 

of the giant Dingo 
Alhekulyele   keeping watch  
from the beginning of time                                      

in a palette of moody cloud
and glint of light on schist
dancing to a subtle world

that echos in the harmonics                                                                                                                        
of sharp brittle quartzite
softened by waves of mulga 

with hum in hot and humid air
bonsai-like trees stunted by flinted soil  
even  the desert sun  is curbed 

by slanted shades of green
every leaf dimmed  and curled 

for protection

a landscape that lures with music   
singing the creation  
of every rock  leaf   every insect 

and on red desert rock
a dragon goanna suns itself
head  held high with ancient knowing                                                                                                    

we are but travellers here
our solemn response
poetry   art   stories   and a world premiere

 of an Opera ‘a day in the life of Miss Pink ‘
a woman   dismissed    put down
silenced   suppressed and stifled

now a young spirit woman sings
and dances  with bird and tree and rock
across the garden

opening another crack
in the great Australian silence
birthing a deeper knowing

of who we are.

  • Arid vegetation that live with less than 13’ of rainfall a year
  • a;-kool-ya   Mt.Gillen





Thursday September  28TH    DAY 1

And we are lured by this primordial music  Olive Pink Extravaganza 
at least we come easier than Miss Pink in her day
her dusty rattled train called the Ghan 
took days . . .

we traversed hundreds of kilometres  
in a few hours above breathtaking
orange, red, rocky, salty patches,  
meandering rainbow serpents  
traces of river beds 
and wonderful mirages 
with illusions of an inland sea
to meet kindred spirits 
and with books opera art poetry 
song  plants  bush medicine and story 
 of the elders and story of 
the newly inspired 
we are thrilled to have our hired car and Desert  Palms Resort 
cabin for the next 10 days.



Friday  30th September 2022   Day 2


The Olive Pink Art show . ..  we offered to help set up 

arriving in the garden it broke the ice to meet everyone and the story began.

Garden walks, music, art ,poetry, a rock wallaby grazing with its baby

 half out of its pouch mimicking it mother with head moving up and down,

our dragon goanna sitting on top of a rock the thousands shades of greens 

and the rock, their structure, textures and pallets of colour

and  the landscape, always changing in the ever changing light.

Back at our pad for a rest and back by 3pm to go on a botanist walk with the famous Peter Latz.

After that Michael and I went for a walk to plan for Thursday if I have to do it by myself.


We went to the opening of the Art Show on Olive Pink by Cheryl Kensett and her friend Jane was a lovely meeting for us as we felt kindred spirits  on our journey and for Cheryl  on our an adventure.  The woman who opened the show said that their parents were introduced to each other by Miss Pink and on a special occasion Olive Pink entertained them with her famous white china.


Saturday 1st October    DAY  3   launch day   


Olive Pink and her garden walk. We set out with about 15 people with Anne Boyd, Gillian Ward  and the curator Ian Colman. It was interesting  to find out  more and amore. Every time we walk we find new colour, new light , texture , smells   animals . Today the main birds were an amazing silver-green  winged parrot. And lots of warblers that live in families. Later Michael and I sat entertained by two courting galahs on a lower branch of a superb ghost gum. 


Back from our walk we waited for the elders  who knew Olive and had stories to tell,. They arrived slowly  . . .  Josie  Petrick, (98) OAM. A husband and wife who wee introduced by Olive  Des and Pat Nelson, , an indigenous woman who lived in town who knew Olive  . . each took the mic and told us many fun stories. 

5.30 My launch 

Acknowledgement to country by Ian Coleman,

  Introduction of Anne Boyd by Michael Keating

  Professor Anne Boyd Launch of book 

  Colleen Responds  with thanks  and reads three poems ( this will be available to read on another  page –      –Olive Muriel Pink

Eden sings his created song inspired by Olive  

World renowned Riley Lee with his shakuhachi  plays  music including  2 antiphons composed by Hildegard of Bingen! and several traditional pieces.

The music was Riley Lee playing the Japanese Flute called the Shakahati and the moment of serendipity  was when he said he chose music of another strong spirited  woman he felt connects with Miss Pink even though she comes from another world and that was Hildegard of Bingen.


Dinner Under the stars.  Panel introduced  and hosted by  Clare Kincliff

Miss Pink from Obscurity to Centre Stage. 

An artist discovering Miss Pink – Cheryl  Kensett, the Opera Composer Professor Anne Boyd, writer and curator Gillian Ward, and myself poet Colleen Keating.



Sunday  2nd October DAY  4

 11 am



 A poetry walk. This was with Ian Coleman , Anne Boyd and myself. It was very small,  a really nice woman joined us  called Gae, a local woman who has several times gone out to talk with Olive at the cemetery  and she enjoyed our walk and my reading of some poems along the way and bought my book .  

At 1.30 we went into the Red Kangaroo Book Shop to hear Cath Bishop talk on her book about Annie Lock , an amazing  story of another amazing woman. 

We came home and had a rest .

Back to the garden for a talk with Cheryl about her paintings on Olive and her other two exhibitions which she shared via slides Dancing Miss Pink and Seeds. 

A  sunset walk  with Ian, Anne  and Connie a past very well informed gardener and about 10 visitors . I read a poem along the way.

And sold three more books. 







Monday 3rd October  DAY 5

Spring walk

Finally a rest day with a walk around the garden at 3pm  and enjoyed the spring colour .

All the little wildflowers many of them in the memory of the soil are recovering 

What vision Miss Pink had and here it is coming to fruitition. 



Tuesday 4th October DAY 6

my plan is a walk in the garden.

a visit to the Art gallery

and a sunset visit to Olive Pinks grave site.

My most special thanks goes to Michael 

He is home to me 

And this past 10 days our pilgrimage, our journey, our  advaenture 

could not have been taken without Michael by my side

    1. Setting out                        2. Settling into the garden                  3. Update



Launch of Olive Muriel Pink


It was very special to join with a group of Arrernte women and children as they set up for a  Bush Medicine Workshop .

Bush medicine refers to ancient and traditional  Aboriginal botanicals for the use of physical and spiritual healing that has been in practice for thousands of years.  They had three medicines available 

one to sootheand nurture dry skin,

one to soothe joint and muscle joints

another a chest rub for colds and flu and to relieve breathing in congestion

I cant remember which we were preparing at the workshop nut it was very informative.


Plant sale  what a wonderful event. Olive Pink would be thrilled. It was like a boxing day sale a long queue at 7.30 in the morning to buy tiny propagrated seeds of the arid native plants for the area. Imagine the work done in the garden spreading out making a native garden of the whole of Alice Springs. 



TUESDAY  4th October  DAY  6


Tuesday Today we went to the Araluen Art Centre and stood before 13 original Albert Namatjira 

paintings and many others from the Hermannsburg Painting School .  Then we enjoyed an exhibition called The Desert Mob.It was a lovely art Gallery and an enjoyable visit. 

Next we drove  out to the Telegraph Station. We had our water and muesli bar and noticed in messages Elisabeth was awake so I rang her as Michael walked out onto the dry Todd River to search out the tiny spring hidden  It was miniature smaller than a garden pond but there was about 50 little birds  flitting around the water and then flying back to a tree high on the rocky outcrop .

We came home and had a rest  and then as the sun was setting we headed out to visit Olive Pink’s grave site . Michael captured a photo of me sitting by Olive and the beams of light shine down as the sun was sitting,


       Albert Namaatjira  1902 – 1959 Finke river MacDonnell Ranges 1936


Teleegraph  Station :A sculpture of tree and rosck .  One could never create the beauty of this.



Olive Pink facing west to watch forever the setting sin over Mt Gillen 

Anzac Hill just to finish off the day


WEDNESDAY  5th  October DAY 7


What an amazing morning Michael and I had. We set out early  and on the spur of the moment decided to drive further out to Standley Chasm first and then fold back later in the morning to walk into Simpsons Gap.   The idea was to miss the bus loads of tourists who come to be in the chasm around about midday to see the sun fill it with the light to make the rock fiery red.  As I hoped by going early we might miss the crowds.




It was about a 20 min walk along a dry river track winding  upwards toward the chasm . The rock that were closing in around us was a stunning red /orange/black / cracked along fault lines piled on and on just stunning . We loved the trees mostly ghost gum spectacularly white trucks but even with a variety of colours when you take time to look.  What made us smile many of them growing sideways . Michael had to watch his head as the trunks canopied the track. Some of the trees caught our attention in the way they had found a symbiosis with the rocks. 

We entered slowly into the chasm realising the sacred  and feminine place it is .

There was  one bus load of school girls ahead of us with a guide. So our entry into the chasm was full of chatter  They took a group photo and chattered on and slowly moved back down and out and a silence fell in the whole chasm.we got half an hour by ourselves . Just sitting and listening and looking and being full of awe and wonder in an amazing silence.Then came a couple who nodded to us and sat and she whispered to the man  it was spellbinding .  High on the red rock were a few small ghost gums standing tall and spectacular stands of bright white Flannel Flowers. Only a small amount of water at the top end but the reflections we played with were very satisfying.

Then the groups started to trickle in and the noise picked up  Admittedly when we got back down many buses had arrived and campervans were there  and they were taking their time having morning tea for the big  foot traffic is midday or 11.30 when the sun comes thru and lights it up but I much preferred the peace rather then a crowd and the red light.  

We walked back very slowly lingering along the way and in the car and trekked back to Simpson’s Gap .

We were not alone but the small groups were quiet and with the red rocks their colour and texture , with the white sand, the ghost gums and  river gums their bulbous roots digging down into the dry river beds , the purple flowers that fanned our path , the salty grey bush and  and black thorny bush and the flowers and small bushes that seem to live on rock including the few trees whose roots climb down the rock in search of crack to root in  it was a time of breathtaking scenery.


A 15 min walk along a sandy dry river with amazing trees that survive  . Loved the No Swimming sign.

The drive back to Alice was interesting again as the sun had changed and the light on the Caterpillar Range was astounding.




Back home for a rest and sandwich and coffee.


Thursday 6th October Day 8




An interesting day unfolded.It was our hottest day so far.  It seemed a bit like overwhelm to begin with . Ingrid from Galah Journal had got in contact with me via Kangaroo Books wondering if I would have time to give to her 25 people arriving from all over Australia as they would not come to my poetry reading on the Friday. So today we drove to the Mecure and met Annabelle,  the editor of the Galah Journal   and walked them along the path and into the garden where I showed them some features and at differnt shady spots we read poetry.They were young and excited and didn’t seem to notice the heat. They loved the experience, amazed at the garden and even more excited to  be attending the opera on the Friday night.  They were an enthusiastic group all subscribers to Galah  gave them a communalityand many meeting for the first time and their enthusiasm was infectious.


Afterwards a very happy walk around the garden reading poetry  we decided to take  advantage of our Desert Park R esort and had a most refreashing  swim.


We were so lucky we chose this accomodation, walking distance to the garden, on the Todd and quite a resort


At 4.30 we made our way out to the Aviation Museum which was the chosen venue for the Forum

Troublesome women.

I had been invited weeks before on email to represent  Olive Pink. It seemed so far in the distance I said yes olf course and now it was a reality to be faced and conquered,

Fortunately I had prepared a paper which I will put on the Olive Pink page . The other speakers were Dr.Eleanor Hogan who had written about two fiesty women of the outback Daisy Bates and Ernestine Hill  and Dr. Cath Bishop  who had written a very authoritive book on a Missionary called Annie Lock.

The venue acquired was the Aviation Museum and it was packed maybe 80 people up the stairs of an areoplane even .  

It turned out to be great fun and The Red Kangaroo Book Shop were there with lots of my book and I sold quite a few of my book to  people wanting to know more about Olive.





Friday 7th October Day 9




This morning we were invited to breakfast in the garden with all the Olive Pink Glitterti  and especially to meet Julie Marcus,  the Anthropologist who uncovered Olive Pink from the silent forgetting of women anthropologists of the 1930’s and 40’s. and to meet Pam Usher, the very generous philanthropist who had just flown in from Melbourene. Without her generosity the Olive Pink Extravaganza and the Olive Pink Opera could not have been staged to the very high stndard it is and consequently my book would not have been launched and given the high profile it has received . So Michael and I were invited to order breakky and enjoy this Olive Pink moment.  

Anne Boyd (composer) and her partner David,  Cheryl Kensett (artist) and her friend Jane,  Gillian Ward  (writer and curator of Olives paintings )  Julie Marcus  (Anthropologist and writer)and her partner  Andie, Ian Coleman the Curator of the park and our special guest Pam User who has made outr coming together possible.


12.00  We spent the next hour and a bit at The Red Kangaroo Bookshop. I gave a prepared 6 min  talk adjusted from my SWW talk about Olive. And then we had a wonderful warm chat with questiona and I read poems from the book to help tell the Olive Pink story. 



4.30 we were back in the garden for the Opera. I was so excited allmy committment were over and now I could relax and enjoy. We were included in the VIP group free champas, finger food and a few talks from Anne and we as the Glitterata were introduced to those who had paid $198  to meet Anne Boyd the composer and all of us.

Before the opera.

Anticipation had been building all week. The ground was levelled and smoothed. We saw the hugh truck arrived to deliver the seating and stage. The next two days it was built . The set was erected with  the tent for Olive  and the sheets hanging on her line.   There were sound and lighting  worked on .  Musicians were practicing, a dress rehearsal made the garden a haven of activity colourful costumes  for the elders


3  50 pm.   Michael and I arrived and sat in the gaden so we were parked with our car there. Most were bused in after parking at the Convention Centre. 

An ambulance arrived and parked . The catering arrived to set up . Musicians and singers trickled in and then the first bus load  arrived and action was on . There was picnic boxes and champayne for sale and a real buzz began. Michael and I joined the VIP group who had paind extra for free champas and nibbles and to meet the composer of the Opera  and all of us. Anne said a few words about the Opera and we sold quite a few books.

5pm  VIP party begore the Opera



Amazing evening. A highlight of my Olive Pink journey. It was hard to believe I was part of this evening of an opera in her garden.My favourite scene  after Olive had finished her life’s work


 from my poem, Dangerous Miss Pink.

As Olive walks away  with her Warlpiri gardener, Johnny Jampijinpa Yannarilyi
‘I used every means with pen and ink
to bring injustice to public attention
and keep it to the fore.’

Her lips curl. A hesitant smile.
‘They called me dangerous.’
He levels out some of the stones.
They sit ahile in the stillness.

She turns, puts her hand on his arm ,
‘The garden is glorious.
I am leaving. But you must stay,
and insist you keep getting proper pay’

They walk further
sit on a chiselled stone seat
and watch the colours on the hill
as the sun begis its journey home.


A moment of union and cameraderie  of the three writers who have researched and written about Olive Pink,

from left: Colleen Keating :  Olive Muriel Pinl: her radical and idealistic journey.

                    Gillian Ward:  Olive Pink : artist, activist & gardener : a life in flowers

                   Julie Marcus: The Indomitable Miss Pink  (from Anthropology point of views.)


Farewell to the Red Centre : from our flight home