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Sir John Burton Cleland (1878-1971)
Papers, principally relating to anthropology and medicine

MSS 572 C61

Biographical Note

J. B. Cleland, circa 1930Sir John Cleland graduated in medicine from Adelaide and Sydney universities and, after appointments at Prince Alfred Hospital, the University of Sydney, London Hospital, as Government Bacteriologist in Western Australia and at the Bureau of Microbiology in Sydney, was in 1920 appointed Professor of Pathology at the University of Adelaide, a position he held until 1948.  He was awarded the CBE for services to medicine in 1949 and knighted in 1964.

Over his long career Cleland contributed with distinction not only to his particular professional field of pathology but to botany, zoology, mycology and anthropology, and was an active field naturalist and ornithologist.  He was a member of the University of Adelaide Board of Anthropological Research and took part in a number of the Board’s expeditions in the 1930s, with a particular interest in the physical anthropology of the indigenous people of Australia and their environment. As Deputy Chairman of the Aborigines Protection Board he also participated in field visits to missions and locations in the 1930s and 1940s.

These papers, deposited with the Library after Sir John’s death, principally reflect Cleland’s work and interest in the study and welfare of indigenous Australians, with some also relating to his interest in medical history.  Additional collections of his published papers on expeditions and anthropology, medicine, and vascular plants and fungi will be found in the University Collection.

This series list replaces the original item listing made on receipt of the papers, as that list failed to recognise the essence of the collection or connections between component parts, provided no dates or indication of format or extent, made no distinction between papers by Cleland or others, and included unhelpful and sometimes misleading entries.

Contents Listing

1.  Letters from ‘persons of note’ and ‘prominent persons’. 1905-44. 3 cm
[As collected and titled by Cleland, with a partial list provided by him.  Most are from the field of medicine, and some of the letters are to Dr E.A. Johnston]

2.  Correspondence (mainly letters received by Cleland).  1912-59.  8 cm.
Includes letter 20/2/1939 to Margaret Symon asking for funds to support the Mountford expedition of 1940, with covering letters from Cleland and Mountford

3.  Letters from Olive Pink. May 1930 – December 1934. 2 cm.
See also her 1941 report on the Coroner’s inquest into the murder of an aboriginal man in Series 7

4.  Note books of observations and experiments on expeditions to Macdonald Downs 1930, Cockatoo Creek 1931, Mt Liebig 1932, [Ernabella] 1933, Ooldea 1939.
1930-39.  6 v.
[Notes variously on physical characteristics of individuals and groups, blood groups/sera, plants and birds (Ernabella) and terrain from Oodnadatta to Ernabella, names/language (Andingerri tribe, Ooldea).  Some undated or not clearly identified, and some notebooks possibly used for different expeditions]

5.  Reports by Cleland on anthropological expeditions 1933-39.   1 cm.
[Comprising brief summary of Board for Anthropological Research expeditions 1926-39; reports on the Mt Liebig expedition 1932, 7th BAR expedition to the North-West of South Australia [Musgrave Ranges] 1933 and the 10th-12th Board expeditions [Granites 1936, Flinders Ranges 1937, Ooldea 1937; and  research proposal and budget (May 1938) and brief report and account of expenditure (to February 1939) of the Joint Research of the University of Adelaide and the Division of Anthropology of Harvard University.   File also includes undated notes (by JBC?) on visit to the Carnegie Corporation, Yale, Berkeley and Kodak, and a list of frames in films made on Macdonald Downs expedition; and copy of an article on the Board for Anthropological Research 1957]
See also Series 2 for correspondence re the C.P. Mountford expedition of 1940 to investigate to totemic sites in Central Australia and the Michael Lerner Australian-New Zealand expedition to make a film of the ‘Aboriginal life of Central Australia’ for the American Museum 1938-39.

6.  Reports on visits to and inspections of missions and ‘native institutions’ by Cleland (most on behalf of the Aborigines Protection Board) and on matters of Board policy and the welfare of Aboriginal Australians. 1938-48 and undated. 2 cm.
[Visits were to Kingston, northern missions, Ernabella, Koonibba and institutions in Western Australia.  Other papers include memo re trial of eight aboriginals at Pt Augusta 1943, draft of policy of the Aborigines Protection Board, section of report covering ‘The preparation of native boys and girls for future citizenship’,  and paper and newspaper cutting re ‘The rocket bomb range and the natives of South Australia’]

7.  Reports on visits to missions and locations by others, and copies of correspondence memoranda etc. received by the Aborigines Protection Board.  1929, 1937-60.  4 cm
Papers include reports from or on:

  • Finke River Mission 1929 (deaths only) and 1936-37 (F.H. Albrecht)
  • Point Pearce 1938 (responses to report of deputation to Point Pearce)
  • Nepabunna 1939 (Constance Cooke)
  • Ooldea 1939 (R.M. Berndt) and 1940-41 (Charles Duguid, Constance Cooke and Supt of Reserves)
  • United Aborigines Mission 15th annual report c.1940 (pamphlet)
  • Wardang Island  (typhoid fever) 1941 (K.M. Wilkinson)
  • Coroner’s inquest into murder of an aboriginal man 1941 (Olive Pink)
  • Salvation Army home 1941 (results of T.B. tests on residents)
  • Swan Reach, Point McLeay and Pt Augusta 1942 (Supt of Reserves)
  • Abuse of natives at the Granites 1942 (V.C.Hall)
  • Taking of dog scalps 1942 (J.R.B. Love)
  • [‘Pay-back’] murder of aboriginal man Alick 1945 (J.R.B. Love)
  • replies from Ooldea, Finnis Springs, Umeewarra, Ernabella and Koonibba to APB questionnaire on nutrition 1945
  • Umeewarra and Ernabella missions 1946 (Charles Duguid)
  • Encounter Bay tribe 1945 (copy of letter Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, S.A. branch, to S.A. Museum re memorial and correct name of the tribe)
  • ‘Visits to institutions for education of aboriginals and half-castes’ 1948 (Dr Black)
  • agenda papers from Missions – Administration Conference 1953
  • ‘Employment of Aborigines on cattle stations’ (F.W. Albrecht)
  • APB correspondence and memoranda 1938-45 and 1960, including pro forma report upon mission stations and instructions to patrol officers; Royal Anthropological Institute, London ‘Memorandum on the condition of the Australian Aboriginal’ 1939; resume of the Board’s interim report for 1949; address of the Secretary to the Conference on Australian Aboriginals 1960; also report of the Aborigines’ Friends Association on ‘Land Trust for Native Races’, lists of acts and regulations relating to Aboriginals in South Australia and an undated and unsigned memo re ‘Economic effects of de-tribalisation of Musgrave Range natives’.

8.  Papers and addresses by Cleland on Aboriginal Australians (reprints, ms and typescripts, some with notes).  1934-57 (most undated).  5 cm.  Papers include:

  • ‘The aborigines and law’ (with notes on sources quoted)
  • ‘Some aspects of the problem of the Australian Aboriginal and his descendants in South Australia’
  • ‘The Australian Aboriginal: his food and how he gets I’, ‘The ecology of the natives of South and Central Australia’, ‘The ecology of the original inhabitants of Tasmania and South Australia’ [published 1939 in the Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania as ‘Some aspects of the ecology of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Tasmania and Southern Australia’] and similar papers on food, habitat and environment (with notes on sources)
  • ‘The Australian Aboriginals’ medicines, narcotics and diseases’ (with notes on sources)
  • ‘Some early contacts with our natives’
  • [speech at] launch of appeal for funds the Hermannsburg mission (for water pipeline) 1935
  • [speech at] exhibition of Central Australian watercolours by Otto Pareroultja 1950
  • ‘Who are our natives and where did they come from?’ 1952
  • ‘The place of the Aborigines in Australia’s Society’ 1957
  • ‘Aborigines and land tenure’ 1965 (Australian Journal of Science 28:4)
  • ‘Our natives: a plea’ 1968 (letter to Advertiser 24 May)
  • ‘How long have the aborigines been isolated in Australia?’ 1970 (Mankind 7:3)
  • review of Daisy Bates The passing of the Australian aborigines
  • brief undated papers and notes on blood-letting, dreams, corroborees and the incidence of cancer
  • miscellaneous notes and extracts from sources used in preparing these papers, especially on environment and law.

9.  Daisy Bates Memorial Committee.  Correspondence and newspaper cuttings re the Fund, use and publication of the papers, and the award of Memorial Prizes for projects by schoolchildren on aboriginal life. 1951-53, 1960-61.  1 cm.

10.  Newspaper and magazine cuttings, principally general articles re Aboriginal Australians. 1934, 1947-48, 1951 (re Flinders Chase), 1953, 1955, 1959 (Stuart Royal Commission), 1960 (proposed memorial to Ernest Kramer).  2 cm.

11.  Contributions by Cleland on medical, botanic and ornithological subjects (reprints, photocopies and journal issues).  1906-70.  4 cm.
[Includes his report as Cancer Research Scholar 1904-05, pamphlet on ‘Boomerang’ Leg 1919, Archibald Watson Memorial Lecture 1950 and ‘Reminiscences of 1920 and thereabouts’ 1966]

12.  Obituaries 1971 and draft entry in 1966 Who’s Who.  1 cm.

13.  ‘Medical pictures and notes’.  Collection of popular articles, illustrations, photographs, cartoons etc. relating to the history of medicine.  3 cm.

14.  Reprints of papers by A.A. Abbie, Joseph Birdsell, J.R. Casley-Smith, H.M. Cooper, H.H. Finlayson, Edmund Gill, C.J. Hackett, F.R. Irvine, Ursula McConnel, R.T. Simmons and T.G.H. Strehlow on the physical anthropology and material culture of Aboriginal Australians.  1947-59.  16 items.

15.  Publications on Aboriginal culture and social issues. 1932-59.  10 items
[Aborigines Friends’ Association, Special report on native problems in Central Australia, 1932
Aboriginal Friends Association, The Aborigines: a Commonwealth problem and responsibility. 1934.
Catherine Berndt, Women’s changing ceremonies in northern Australia L’Homme 1, 1950
R.M. Berndt and C.H. Berndt, Discovery of pottery in north-eastern Arnhemland Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute lxxvii, July-December 1947
C. Hoff, The Australian native, The Luther League Monitor June 1932
Gordon Rowe, A century of service to the Aborigines at Point McLeay, S.A. [reprint from 101st annual report of the Aborigines Friends’ Association] [1959]
T.G.H. Strehlow Dark and white Australians  [1958]
Norman B. Tindale Results of the Harvard-Adelaide Universities Anthropological Expedition, 1938-39 (1-4), 1940-41]

Note:  the 6 items listed below have now been catalogued separately:
F.W. Albrecht, The natural food supply of the Australian Aborigines
Ronald M. Berndt, Social anthropological survey of the Warburton, Blackstone and Rawlinson ranges [report] March 1959
The National Aborigines Day Observance Committee in association with The National Missionary Council of Australia, Call to national observance Ministers’ Bulletin 43, May 1960
H.K. Fry, Dieri legends (1-2) Folk-Lore xlviii, June and September 1937
Nganyintjanya Ernabella News Letter August 1943

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