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The Cunningham Collection

The John Cunningham Collection


WAM 11

Offline Only


A small collection of 20 objects and 36 images compiled by John Cunningham in the 1950s at Cundeelee. Cunningham was a member of State parliament and joined trips into the Great Victoria Desert to evacuate Aboriginal people to Cundeelee prior to the atomic bomb tests at Maralinga.

In the 1950s John Cunningham, a Member of the Legislative Council in WA's State parliament, was asked by Reverand Bob Stewart (superintendant of the Cundeelee Mission) to check with the then Department of Native Affairs for a list of the inhabitants of the Great Victoria Desert. The request had been initally made to Bob Stewart by an old Aboriginal man, Mr Jamison. The enquiry drew a blank but Mr Jamison insisted on there being people still in the desert country to the east. Six trips into the desert were mounted and Cunningham participated on three. This small collection of artefacts and photographs documents Cunningham's experience of these events. They are a snapshot of life on a remote desert mission in the 1950s.

Some material may be subject to copyright.

Available by appointment –


20th century; Aboriginal culture; Boomerangs; Tools; Tourist art

Aboriginal culture; Aboriginal peoples (Australians); Evacuations; Missions (church settlements); Nuclear weapons tests; Photography; Tools

Aboriginal peoples; Artefacts; Evacuation; Missions; Nuclear weapons; Photography; Tools

Boomerangs; Clubs; Photographs; Shields; Toys

John Cunningham; Mr Jamison; Reverand Bob Stewart

Coverage Spatial

Maralinga; Cundeelee; Great Victoria Desert; Western Australia

Coverage Temporal



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