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Unaipon, David

David Unaipon was a writer, musician, inventor and preacher. He was born in 1872 and grew up at Raukkan (then the Point McLeay Mission) near Tailem Bend, south east of Adelaide. In 1885 Unaipon moved to Adelaide for five years where his interest in music, science and literature was fostered. When he returned to Raukkan, Unaipon was apprenticed as a boot maker and also became the mission's organist.

Unaipon began to experiment with perpetual motion, ballistics and other areas of physics. In 1909 he patented a design for modified mechanical shears for sheepshearing and he lodged several more patents in the years to follow. Unaipon spent many years lecturing on Aboriginal legends, customs and social conditions, becoming a spokesperson for Aboriginal people and influencing government indigenous policy. His compilations of Aboriginal legends and his own poetry were published from the late 1920s.

Unaipon was awarded a Coronation medal in 1953 and in 1988 the national David Unaipon award for unpublished works by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers was established.  Unaipon's portrait is on the Australian $50 note issued in 1995. He died in 1967.

David Unaipon
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Patent specification. Mechanical motion. Sheep shears.
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