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James, Jimmy 1913?-1991

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Born: 1913? [near Ernabella, South Australia]

Died: 1991 [Adelaide, South Australia]

Indigenous tracker

Jimmy James was born in the Pitjantjatjara lands of north western South Australia. During his childhood James learnt from family members the survival and tracking skills which helped the indigenous people of these harsh regions survive. In the early 1930s James and members of his extended family moved to Ooldea and James attended the school at the United Aborigines Mission there. He moved to the Riverland in 1936 and helped establish the United Aborigines Mission at Gerard.

James worked with the South Australian, Victorian and New South Wales police as a tracker for over 30 years, successfully tracking escaped criminals and missing persons. Some of the most notable cases that James assisted with were the Sundown murders (December 1957-January 1958), the Pine Valley murder (November 1958) and the disappearance of a nine-year-old girl at Mylor in the Adelaide Hills (October 1966).

James was a well-regarded member of the Gerard community and received many honours throughout his lifetime. In 1983, James was named Aboriginal of the Year and in 1984 he was awarded an Order of Australia for his tracking work. A year later, the South Australian Police awarded him a plaque paying tribute to his work with them. A sculpture in honour of James is located next to the River Murray at Berri.

Image reproduced courtesy of Advertiser Newspapers Pty Ltd and Joyce Barton. It may be printed or saved for personal research or study. Use for any other purpose requires written permission from Advertiser Newspapers Pty Ltd, Joyce Barton and the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form .

Key achievements

1983: Named Aboriginal of the year

1984: Awarded Order of Australia

1985: Awarded plaque for years of service with the South Australian Police

Further reading

Healey, John, ed. S.A.'s greats : the men and women of the North Terrace plaques, Adelaide : Historical Society of South Australia, 2001

Holmes, Robert. Lost and found: The life of Jimmy James, black tracker, [Tumby Bay, SA: R. Holmes], 2000 (Port Lincoln, SA: The Printing Press)

Lloyd, Paul. 'Follower the leader', The advertiser, Weekend supplement, 30 June 2001, pp. 6-7

A special place for Jimmy James: a project of the Riverland Cultural Trust and the Riverland Community, [Berri, SA: The Trust, 1989]


Wikipedia entry for Jimmy James

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