Born: Established: 20 Aug 1883 Adelaide ; Died: 1 Oct 1971 Kings Cross
Michael Sawtell was educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter, Adelaide, where he won the McCulloch history scholarship in 1898. He left his studies early to become a drover's boy with Sir Sidney Kidman (q.v.). Sawtell travelled extensively throughout outback Australia, learning much about Aboriginal culture and spirituality. He was one of the first white men to settle in the Obagooma region near Yampi Sound. In 1910 he participated in actions to have Aboriginal chain gangs abolished, and for Aboriginal shearers to be paid. He later became an adherent to the philosophies of American transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson, publishing Emerson the Mystic in 1954. Sawtell became a member of the Socialist Party, the Theosophical Society, the Kurrajong Brotherhood and a paid organiser for the Industrial Workers of the World, at different periods in his life. His actions as a socialist agitator and anti-conscription campaigner saw him gaoled a number of times.
During World War Two Sawtell lectured for the Army Education Service, and he was also president of the committee of Aboriginal Citizens Rights (formed in 1938). He joined the Aborigines Welfare Board in 1940. He published a number of pamphlets, including Job-Control, or, The Industrial Basis of a New Society (published under slightly different titles in 1919, 1920, and 1926), An Apocalypse of Labor : A New Interpretation of An Old Movement (1926), Vedanta and Christianity (1949) and Philosophical Mysticism (1955). He also contributed many articles and letters to the Australian press, as well as conducting numerous radio broadcasts throughout his life.
Miller (in Australian Literature from Its Beginnings to 1935 ) and Miller and Macartney (in Australian Literature : A Bibliography to 1938 ) mention a work of poetry, Pilate Answered (1925). This work has not been located.