- 1916-1985 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
28 boxes, 1 parcel, 4 albums, 1 oversize folder
Name of creator
Oodgeroo Noonuccal of the Noonuccal tribe of North Stradbroke Island near Brisbane, was a poet and Aboriginal activist. She was born Kathleen Jean Mary Ruska on 3 November 1920 at Bulimba, then in the Shire of Balmoral and from 1925 a suburb of Brisbane. Her parents were Edward (Ted) Ruska, and Lucy, nee McCullough. She was the second youngest of seven children. Her father was a Noonuccal descendant. Ruska's childhood home was One Mile on North Stradbroke Island on the outskirts of Dunwich. She completed her education at Dunwich State school in 1934, at the age of thirteen, and left home to work in Brisbane. In 1941 she enlisted in the Australian Women's Army Service and was discharged in 1944. She married Bruce Walker, a childhood friend, on 8 May 1943. The couple had one son, but later separated. Kath Walker later worked for Raphael and Phyllis Cilento. In 1953, she had a son with the Cilentos' son, Raphael junior.
Kath Walker was involved in numerous organisations. From 1961 to 1970 she was the Queensland State Secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders as well as an Executive of the Queensland Aboriginal Advancement League and Secretary of the Queensland State Council for the Advancement of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders. She was a member of the Aboriginal Arts Board, the Aboriginal Housing Committee, the Australian-American Bicentennial Committee. She was also the Chairperson of the Cultural Committee of the Queensland Multicultural Task Force in 1978 and later the Managing Director of the Noonuccal-Nughie Education and Cultural Centre.
During her lifetime Kath Walker filled several lecturing and artistic positions. These included Adult Education Lecturer; Delegate to the World Council of Churches Consultation on Racism; Guest Lecturer at the University of South Pacific; Official Australian Envoy on a Diplomatic Passport to International Writers' Conference in Malaysia; Senior Advisor to the Australian Aboriginal Contingent to the First World Black Festival of Arts in Nigeria; Guest of the Government of Papua New Guinea for the PNG Festival of Arts; Delegate to the Second World Black Festival of Arts; Lecturer and assistant to Professor P. Edwards, Camp Jungai pre-tertiary Aboriginal students summer camp; Remedial Tutor at the Dunwich State Primary School. She toured the United States on a Fullbright Scholarship and Myers travel grant lecturing on Australian Indigenous culture.
In 1981 Kath Walker launched her new career as a painter and fabric designer. Her first exhibition was in July 1981. In an article by Bruce Dickson, Kath Walker says that "painting has always been her first love [as] it communicates more effectively than the written word".
In protest at the 1988 Australian Bicentenary celebrations, in 1987 Kath Walker changed her name to Oodgeroo of the Noonuccal tribe. In the same year she returned the MBE (awarded in 1970) to the Governor of Queensland.
She died of cancer on 16 September 1993.
Collection previously titled as: Papers, [194-?]-[ca.1985]
Collection alternatively titled as: Oodgeroo Noonuccal Collection.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
This collection contains poetry, prose, speeches, and reports; correspondence; photographs, newspaper cuttings; press releases; invitations; programmes; research material; and plans.
Appraisal, destruction and scheduling
System of arrangement
This collection was rearranged in early 2020. Series titles from the previous online listing have been retained with additional series created as required. Where possible, previous box numbers are recorded in the notes field.
Conditions of access and use area
Conditions governing access
Conditions governing reproduction
Language of material
- Australian Language
Script of material
Language and script notes
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Material from this collection has been cited in:
Piccini, J. (2019). Human rights in twentieth-century Australia, Cambridge University Press.
Swan, QJ (2023) ‘The Black Pacific: Vanuatu, Decolonization, and the Global 1980s’, The Journal of African American history, 108(3):398–424, doi:10.1086/725826.
The Australian women's register, AWH000383
This collection may contain culturally sensitive words or descriptions, some of which might not normally be used in certain public or community contexts.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are warned that this manuscript collection may contain images or names of Aboriginal and Islander people now deceased.
The creator has been identified by the name used at the time of creation with the exception of the top-level description.
Alma MMS ID
Millennium Local System Number
Libraries Australia ID
Place access points
Name access points
- Oodgeroo Noonuccal, 1920-1993 (Subject)
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion
Revised, SJB, 18-Nov-2022.
Revised, Linda Justo, 18-Nov-2022. Revised, Linda Justo, 21-May-2020;
Migrated from LMS: April 2019, P.A.