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Paddy Cahill of Oenpelli
Winner of the 2005 Northern Territory Chief Minister’s History Award. An energetic ‘frontiersman’, Paddy Cahill joined pioneer Nat Buchanan’s famous 1883 cattle drive, moving 20,000 head of cattle from Australia’s Central Queensland to Northern Territory and he was known throughout the 1890’s as one of Darwin’s ‘characters’.
In 1909 Cahill settled at Oenpelli, on the East Alligator River. He pioneered tropical horticulture, agriculture and butter production and established positive race relations with the Aborigines upon who he relied for labour.
Following the visit from anthropologist Baldwin Spencer to Oenpelli in 1912, Cahill became a Protector of Aborigines. His frequent and detailed correspondence with Spencer assisted Spencer’s 1914 publication Native Tribes of the Northern Territory. He further helped Spencer’s work by collecting words, stories, art and artefacts for him.
While Cahill’s initial attitudes towards Indigenous people are questionable by today’s standards, his values and perceptions changed significantly over time and he worked hard on behalf of Aboriginal people, especially with dietary and medical support.
Paddy was a good story teller. This biography recounts his lively story and includes his informative letters and newspaper articles. Both provide insights into frontier conditions, Aboriginal culture and the problems of health and displacement.
232 pages; ISBN 9780855755201
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Part I Biography
1. ‘A man of great resourcefulness’ 3
2. Jack of all trades 19
3. A pastoralist marries 24
4. Oenpelli 35
5. Pioneering life outback 44
6. The Protector 49
7. The Darwin rebellion 65
8. ‘A great deal to like in the Natives’ 72
Part II Cahill’s letters to Baldwin Spencer
Appendix 1 In the NT buffalo country 1898–99 139
Appendix 2 A trip to Point Farewell 1901 156
Appendix 3 Letters of Joe Cooper and Solomon 164
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