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1919 expedition

1919 expedition

Warning: This exhibition and website contain some images of nudity and people in distressing circumstances. Visitors should also be aware that the exhibition and website include names and images of deceased people that may cause sadness or distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


First medical relief expedition

Herbert Basedow was passionate about the health of Aboriginal people, campaigning publicly and lobbying the South Australian Government for action.

In 1919 a group of pastoralists and the government provided £1000 to investigate the health of Aboriginal people in South Australia. Basedow was commissioned to undertake the work, with his wife Nell as nurse. Basedow's older brother Erwin and 18-year-old Richard Grenfell Thomas were hired to look after the expedition buggies and horses — a tough job in a drought-affected area.

More than 250 Aboriginal people were examined, mostly at pastoral stations. Many non-Aboriginal people also took the opportunity to seek medical attention. When duties permitted, Basedow took photographs using a Graflex camera with glass plate negatives.

Basedow's expedition report concluded pessimistically that the Aboriginal people in the north-east were 'doomed to an early extinction'.

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