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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.

Map outlining the expedition in 1919. The stylised map shows the expedition routes in white lines. The expedition area is in north west South Australia and far west Queensland. Locations such as Birdsville, Marree, Innamincka and Durham Downs are shown. A small map of Australia in the top left hand corner shows the expedition area overview.
Map outlining the first medical relief expedition route in 1919 in South Australia

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'.

Read more on the 1919 expedition

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