Dolly Gurinyi Batcho
Larrakia woman, Dolly Gurinyi Batcho, was one of more than 3000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who worked in support of Australia's war effort in World War II.
Indigenous men were able to enlist and serve overseas. Many women enlisted in the auxiliary services, some of whom served overseas. Some Indigenous women like Dolly worked on military bases without having joined the military.
Indigenous women worked in many roles during the war. They worked at:
- military bases
Adelaide River, 113 km south of Darwin, was one of the military bases established to defend Australia from the threat of a Japanese invasion. In February 1942, Darwin was bombed by Japanese aircraft. This led to the tiny township of Adelaide River becoming the Northern Territory headquarters for Australian and United States troops.
Dolly was born in about 1905. She worked at Adelaide River. Her family had been evacuated further south, along with 2000 women and children from the Darwin area. But Dolly remained behind.
She was given the unofficial rank of 'corporal' and put in charge of the Aboriginal Women’s Hygiene Squad at the 69th Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS) Barracks at Adelaide River. The Aboriginal women were given the unglamorous but necessary job of cleaning and maintaining sanitary conditions in the camp.
Adelaide River had grown with an influx of some 30,000 Australian and American service personnel. It became an important centre for military communications and supplies. While Dolly worked there, she experienced a bombing raid by the Japanese.
The role of the Aboriginal Women's Hygiene Squad was not officially recognised. None of its members enjoyed the benefits of formal enlistment. But, like many other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Top End, they played a vital role in supporting Australia's defence.
After the war, Dolly became a vocal advocate for the rights of Aboriginal peoples. She was a signatory to the 1972 Larrakia petition, a landmark document in Aboriginal peoples' struggle for recognition and land rights. She also provided evidence that supported the Larrakia people's successful land rights claim in the 1970s.
Dolly Gurinyi Batcho died in 1973.
- Department of Lands, Planning and Environment 'Coomalie Planning Concepts and Land Use Objectives' Archived 15 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine Northern Territory Government, 2000
- NAA. Undated. Evacuation of women and children from Darwin, 1941–42. National Archives of Australia, Canberra. http://guides.naa.gov.au/records-about-northern-territory/part1/chapter4/4.2.aspx
- Wikipedia contributors. "Adelaide River, Northern Territory." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 April 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adelaide_River,_Northern_Territory#cite_note-ntg_lands-9