Dr Pamela Watson, 1927 –2020

Dr Pamela Margaret Watson, who studied and tutored at the Anthropology department of The University of Queensland, died on Sunday the 1st of November after a short illness. She was ninety three: in the brief period of time between the onset of her last illness and her lapse into unconsciousness, she made it clear to her family that she was ready to go.

Her children remember Pamela as first becoming involved with the Anthropology Department in the late 1970s as a mature age student. When, on the completion of her degree, she failed to qualify to become an Honours student, she dedicated herself to private research, which resulted in her publishing two papers. These papers were about Pituri, a drug produced and traded by the Karuwali people of the Channel Country. The publication of these papers persuaded the department that Pam would be a worthy Honours student, and she was subsequently accepted.

Pam’s Honours Thesis, entitled “This Precious Foliage” which was also about Pituri, was published by Oceania as a monograph.

Pam’s PhD thesis was accepted in the late eighties. Titled “Machinery of the Mind” it was based on fieldwork undertaken among the Biwat People in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Like “Foliage” it dealt with the use production and trade of an Indigenous drug (in this case, betel nut). Pamela was fifty five when she went to live among the Biwat.

In 1992 Pamela published (under the name Pamela Lukin Watson) “Frontier Lands and Pioneer Legends – how Pastoralists Gained Karuwali Land”. It describes the lives and outcomes of the people whom she had previously discussed in “Foliage”. The book was a runner-up in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Non-fiction Book of the Year, and is still regarded as a important work of contact history. It is downloadable (CC4) from her ResearchGate profile www.researchgate.net/profile/Pamela_Lukin_Watson.

During the Australian “history wars” Pamela published an analysis of the fate of the Karuwali people, in the book Genocide and Settler Society: Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children in Australian Society (2004; Dirk Moses, ed.).

Pamela’s funeral will be held at Mt Thompson Memorial Gardens on Saturday November 14, at 3.00.

Please ring Hugh Watson on 0422 616 641 if you are interested in attending.