Posted by: nancycurteman | August 7, 2010

Aboriginal Pride: Topsy Smith and Walter Smith

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I’ve had several comments on my posts about Topsy Smith and Australia’s National Sorry Day. These comments have come from people who are related to Ms. Smith.

Gillian Stewart shared information regarding Glenda Brown nee Kinchela of Moree district who’s relative (Wiragi/Kamilaroi origins) was one of the instigators of the original 1930s Day of Mourning, the precursor of Australia’s National Sorry Day. Glenda is currently employed as an Aboriginal Liaison officer with Port Stephens Police Area Command.

Gillian added that her own married name was Charchalis and that her husband was initiated by Walter Smith, first born son of Topsy and Bill Smith. She, herself was  adopted by Walter and his second wife. Gillian wrote, “These events occurred in late 1966 after my husband Nick had been spending a lot of time with Walter Smith being taught Arrernte (Arunta) ways.”

Two of Walter Smith’s nieces are aboriginal artists Fay and Carlene Lavender. Their art is on display at the Arltunga Aboriginal Art Gallery. Fay wrote that Walter Smith “was the last surviving ‘Senior Lawman’ for the eastern Aranda people. When he died much of our people’s secret laws were never to be revealed again, as there was no one fully qualified to receive them.” Carlene was born in Alice Springs, home of Topsy Smith.

Christine Donnellan, the granddaughter of Topsy Smith, stated: Topsy Smith “was a tough lady, bringing her children and many goats to Alice Springs, the goats fed the children and there is a hill in the middle of the town name billy-goat hill after my grandmother’s goats, her four daughters was taken from her and taken to South Australia to work as domestics. Two of the daughters Ada (my mum) and Jean when they were old enough came back to Alice Springs and took their mother out of the Bungalow and looked after her.”

How wonderful to learn so much about these interesting Aborigines.

For more information, consider a book written by Dick Kimber “Man From Arltunga: Walter Smith-Australian Bushman.” It is an informative biography of Smith’s life.

Photo: Moxon



  1. Thank you for sharing information about Australia and these interesting people.


  2. Thanks for the link to the Art Gallery owned by Walter Smith’s nieces. My favorites:

    The White Kangaroo
    Birds of the Billabong

    The use of white in both paintings makes the other colors pop!

    Sadly, they exceed my price range for art. : )


    • Dear nrhatch,

      My name is Carlene Lavender and I am the artist of the aboove paintings that you liked, I would like to say Thank You for your kind words 🙂


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  5. hello i just wanted to say how proud i am of my great great nanna topsy as i am related to her and great great uncle walter


    • Hello Holly,
      Thank you for your comment. I’d love to hear more from you about your great nanna topsy and great great uncle walter. Also, are you living in Northern Territory? If so, I’d love to learn more about that area. It is the setting for one of my novels. Also, Americans identify the Outback, somewhat like our old West.


      • Hi Nancy,
        Thank you for your lovely words about Nanna Topsy and Uncle Walter, I was told by my Poppa (Nanna Topsy’s Youngest Son) all about her and I knew Uncle Walter, he was a beautiful soul and I feel lucky to have them as my family.



  6. Hello Carlene,
    What a pleasure to hear from you. I spent some time in Alice Springs and fell in love with the people and the history. My novel, Murder Down Under, is set in Alice as well as Sydney. I’d love to hear more of the personal history of Topsy and Walter. To me, they are unsung heroes that people should know more about. That’s why I shared their story on my blog. I hope to hear more from you.


  7. Uncle Walter was a gentle man, he loved to laugh, and had a keen sense of humour. I remember him coming to see my Nanna and Poppa when I was young at Gap Road in Alice Springs, he and my Poppa (Clarry Smith as he was known) would sit out the front of the house and laugh and talk for hours. The stories they would tell were always so interesting. Clarence Smith (Clarry) was my grandfather and the youngest son of Topsy He was born in Alice Springs and raised till he was12-14 at the Bungalow.


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