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A P Elkin

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Name  A. Elkin

Education  University of Sydney
A. P. Elkin consumerfairfaxsyndicationcomDocFXJMediaTR3
Died  July 9, 1979, Camperdown, Australia
Books  The Australian Aborigines: How to Understand Them

Adolphus Peter "A. P." Elkin CMG (27 March 1891 – 9 July 1979) was an Anglican clergyman, an influential Australian anthropologist during the mid twentieth century and a proponent of the assimilation of Indigenous Australians.


Early life

Elkin was born at West Maitland, New South Wales; his father was an English Jew and his mother was a seamstress of German ancestry. His parents were divorced in 1901, his mother died the next year and he was then brought up by his maternal grandparents as an Anglican. He went to school at Singleton and Maitland East Boys' High School. After finishing school he worked at banks in country New South Wales, but then won a theological scholarship to St Paul's College, University of Sydney, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1915. From 1916 to 1919 he worked in the Anglican diocese of Newcastle and he then became a teacher at St John's Theological College, Armidale, under Ernest Henry Burgmann.

Elkin became interested in Australian Aboriginal culture and although no anthropology was taught in Australia at the time, his master's thesis—which he completed successfully in 1922—was on this subject and he lectured on it at St John's. He married Sally Thompson in 1922. He was Anglican rector of Wollombi from 1922 and 1925 and during this period he lectured for the University of Sydney in the Hunter Region on Aboriginal culture. In 1925, he resigned from his Anglican work and began studying anthropology at University College, London under Grafton Elliot Smith, where he earned a PhD in 1927. In 1927, foundation professor of anthropology and Sydney University, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, gained Rockefeller funding for him to work on Australian culture in the Kimberleys, Western Australia. In 1928, he was appointed as Anglican rector of Morpeth on the basis that he could continue with his anthropology. He also became co-editor of St John's Theological College's Morpeth Review. He also became editor of Oceania from its founding in 1931 until his death. He visited many missions in Western Australia, including the Mount Margaret Mission, part of the Australian Aborigines Mission (later United Aborigines Mission) in 1930 on behalf of the Australian National Research Council. He became an activist for the amelioration of Australian Aborigines, which he saw as best served by their assimilation into European society.

Professor of anthropology

Following Radcliffe-Brown's resignation from Sydney University Elkin was appointed lecturer-in-charge of the anthropology department in late 1932 and he was promoted to professor in December 1933. Until his retirement in 1956, he effectively dominated Australian anthropology, advised governments, trained administrators sent to Papua New Guinea, while also continuing his field research. He was president of the Association for the Protection of Native Races from 1933 to 1962. He was vice-president of the Aborigines Protection Board of New South Wales, (renamed Aborigines Welfare Board in 1940). He intervened successfully to prevent the execution of an Aboriginal, Tuckiar for murder, leading to the eventual quashing of the conviction by the High Court in 1934.

After his retirement in 1966, Elkin was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1966 Birthday Honours. In 1970 he received an honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Sydney. He died at a meeting at the University, survived by his wife and two sons.


A. P. Elkin Wikipedia

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