Doris Kartinyeri was born to Ngarrindjeri parents at Raukkan, which was then known as Point McLeay, on Lake Alexandrina, South Australia. Her mother died when she was four weeks old, and Doris was taken by the Aboriginal Protection Board without her father's consent, a 'stolen child', to be brought up in Colebrook Home until at the age of fourteen she was put into domestic service.
As an adult, and after having three children of her own, Kartinyeri began to explore her family background, and became active on behalf of her community. The story of her struggle to find her identity is told in her biography Kick the Tin.
Her children's book, Bush Games and Knucklebones, gives an insight into what life was like growing up in a children's home in the 1950s, and celebrates the friendships she formed at Colebrook,with the children bonding to become their own special type of family.
Kartinyeri's story was recorded by the National Library of Australia for the Bringing Them Home oral history project and appeared in the associated publication Many Voices: Reflections on experiences of Indigenous child separation, edited by Doreen Mellor and Anna Haebich (2002).