The famous aboriginal personality whom I have chosen for the assessment on aboriginal personalities is David Unaipon. David Ngunaitponi or David Unaipon as he later came to be known as was born on 28 September, 1872 at Raukkan Mission in the Coorong region of South Australia. Being the fourth of the nine children of his parents James and Nymbulda Ngunaitponi, Unaipon started formal education at 7 from Point McLeay Mission School.
After being forced to leave school at the age of 13 he was then forced to work as a bootmaker. But, after his marriage to Katherine Carter, a Tangane woman he was later employed by the Aborigines’ Friends’ Association as deputationer. On 7 February, 1967 he breathed his last in Tailem Bend. Australia appreciated his great personality by featuring him on the $50 note in 1995 (Jones, 2012).
Unaipon was a great lover of English literature. He stressed upon the usage of classical English rather than modern English. He was greatly influenced by Milton and it can be seen in his writings. He spent much of his earnings at the Aborigines’s Friends’s Association on travelling. During the early days of his career as a writer, Unapion faced many instances of racism and was denied equal status unlike others. David Unapion was the first aboriginal writer to publish in English and authored many articles in newspapers and magazines. In his works , he used to retell traditional stories and participated actively for aboriginal rights and status (Heiss,1994).
Unapion’s earliest works were presented in a book in 1930 titled ‘Myths and Legends of the Australian Aboriginals’ that was later published by his name. David Unapion assisted the Bleakley investigation into Aboriginal welfare in 1928-29. He was by then the best known Aborigine in Australia and soon was accepted as their true representative. Unapion had great skill in manipulating the press who used to describe him as a full blood aborigine. In 1934 he advocated that South Australia's chief guardian of Aborigines be swapped by an independent board and that the Commonwealth should take over Aboriginal affairs (Jones, 2012).
David Unaipon has a credit that no other aborigine has. The Australian government, in 1995 decided to feature his image on the front of the $50 note. His picture went alongside were the sketches from some of his inventions and manuscripts of his famous book Legendary ‘Tales of the Famous Aborigines’(Heiss,1994). A new controversy had sparked when a great-nephew of Unaipon Allan Campbell claimed that his family’s permission was never taken. His family argue that someone not related to Unaipon gave the consent for his picture to be used on the note (Heiss,1994).
The writer whom I have chosen for the assessment on aboriginal writers is Kevin Gilbert. Kevin Gilbert was born on July 10, 1933 in Condobolin in NSW in Australia. Gilbert was a very famous aboriginal writer of his time. He was also an activist, poet, artist, playwright and print maker. He had also won the National Book Council Prize for writers.
In his early life, at aged 14 he had to wander for various seasonal and nomadic jobs. He was granted a parole in 1971 instead of serving a life sentence for killing his wife. Gilbert took up writing in his prison days. He wrote a play named ‘The Cherry Pickers’ while in prison which smuggled out of jail and later received much appreciation from the critics especially, Katherine Brisbane. The play was performed by Nindethana Theatre group in 1973, but due to political conditions at the time it could be published only as late as 1988. The play also became a sign of aboriginal protest. Kevin Gilbert is credited to be the first aboriginal playwright to have his work performed (Kevin Gilbert).
In 1973, Gilbert authored one of his most famous books ‘Because the White Man’ll Never Do It’. Gilbert’s next book ‘Living Black: Blacks talk to Kevin Gilbert’ won him the annual book award. Gilbert playwright, another play in 1972 named ‘The Gods Look Down’ which was performed at the Wayside Theatre. The play was directed by Barry Donnelly and can could be considered a dance drama. Apart from his political work, Gilbert’s works include a number of plays and sketches such as ‘Ghosts in Cell Ten’, ‘The Blush of Birds’, ‘Eternally Eve’, ‘Evening of Fear’ and ‘Everyman Should Care’ (Kevin Gilbert).
Gilbert wanted to draw attention of all Australians by the means of his writing, painting and poetry towards justice and the land. He was a firm believer in equality and strongly preached that aborigines together with the rest could live in harmony. He pleaded to the white community to stop the miseries and inhuman treatment they do to the aborigines. He believed that living in harmony was necessary not only for the people but for the country and the land of Australia (Kevin Gilbert).
Gilbert presided upon the Treaty '88 campaign for a treaty protecting Aboriginal rights and sovereignty in the build up to Australia's bi-centenary celebrations. Kevin Gilbert was awarded Human Rights Award for Literature for editing the Aboriginal poetry anthology Inside Black Australia by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's.
Gilbert did not accept this award because of the enduring suffering and injustice of the aboriginals. He continued to write and exhibit his artwork. Kevin Gilbert died on April 1, 1993. His family includes six children and a number of grand and great-grandchildren (Famous Aboriginal people & role models).
Famous Aboriginal people & role models, [online] Available at: http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/people/famous-aboriginal-people-role-models [Accessed 5 November 2012].
Heiss, A., 1994. Who is David Unaipon?,Did U know - Stories,[online] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/messageclub/duknow/stories/s888637.htm [Accessed 5 November 2012].
Jones, P., 2012. Unaipon, David (1872–1967), Australian Dictionary of Biography,[online] Available at: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/unaipon-david-8898 [Accessed 5 November 2012].
Kevin Gilbert, [online] Available at: http://auexplorer.tripod.com/gilbert.html [Accessed 5 November 2012].
Klenowski, V.,2009. Australian Indigenous students: Addressing equity issues in assessment. [online] Available at: http://eprints.qut.edu.au/26167/1/26167.pdf [Accessed 5 November 2012].
Office of Aboriginal Affairs. [online] Available at: http://www.gov.ns.ca/abor/ [Accessed 5 November 2012]