Australian Tour 2: The Handsome Gentleman on the 50 Pound Note

I may earn money from the participating companies linked in this post: (supporting my nearby independent bookstore Bluebird & Co, in Crozet, VA) and/or Audible. My podcast is sponsored by Audible and Care/Of.

Patent for sheep shearerFrom a radio program, available for download from Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

The back of the note shows the Raukkan mission school, where he was educated, and the mechanical sheep shearer that he invented.
The back of the note shows the Raukkan mission school, where he was educated, and the mechanical sheep shearer that he invented.

David Unaipon was born on the Murray River in Ngarrindjeri country in 1872, and brought up in his own culture. He lifetime spanned the first phase of colonial contact between his people and the Europeans — in fact he died only months before the 1967 referendum which would have afforded him citizenship.

Unaipon was a scientist, orator and singer, and the first published Aboriginal author. He was the most famous Aborigine of his time, nicknamed ‘Australia’s Leonardo da Vinci’ for his inventions: his improvements to the hand-held shearing comb are still in use today. At the turn of the century he spoke of aerodynamics, he foresaw the helicopter, and outlined the uses of polarised light to a rapt, if bemused, European audience. Unaipon spent his life trying to harness the secret of perpetual motion.

Download mp3 of entire program, which includes reading of Unaipon’s poem “On the shore of a strange land”.

Unaipon is the anglicized version of his birth surname, David Ngunaitponi.

Unaipon’s book, Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines, is not available widely to the world, despite its cultural and historical importance. Please click to request in Kindle format. This will notify the publisher that people want to read it.

It has been digitized by the Library of New South Wales, and so can be viewed online. Go to the parent record, and then choose either volume 1 or volume 2. Then click on “view album”.

Once again, here comes the horrific monster plagiarism. Cut off one of its heads, two more grow back. This, my lovelies, is actually what this beast looks like:

William Ramsay Smith, who does dishonor to my Scottish heritage, went to Adelaide to perform the role of coroner–which he promptly lost, after misusing human remains. That didn’t stop him; in fact, he escalated to selling burial artifacts to museums as well as manhandling remains. Smith apparently operated under the guide of a toddler–if I see it and I want it, it’s mine–and so he wholly published Unaipon’s book under his name in 1930. The book, thankfully, was restored to Unaipon’s name. (Smith is a Dollop all on his own, for all the times he was fired, permanently banned, shipped out, etc. for awful, awful professional and personal behavior, yet just kept going, doing whatever he wanted–but this is Unaipon’s time to shine, so go away, Smith.)

Unaipon received the Coronation medal in 1953 recognizing his works in literature, science, and culture; yet, because of prejudice, he was still being denied shelter as he traveled Australia to preach and learn.

In 1988, the David Unaipon award for Aboriginal Australian authors was established, and an accompanying annual lecture in his honor is given in Adelaide.

Gizmondo: The Australian Da Vinci: How David Unaipon (Almost) Changed Our Nation

28 September 1872-7 February 1967 (94 years old)



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