AustLit logo
Margaret Brusnahan Margaret Brusnahan i(A18497 works by) (birth name: Margaret Woods) (a.k.a. Lompalampii (Butterfly))
Born: Established: Kapunda, Roseworthy - Kapunda area, Lower North South Australia, South Australia, ;
Gender: Female
Heritage: Aboriginal ; Aboriginal Ngarrindjeri ; Irish
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


Margaret Brusnahan was born to an Aboriginal mother and her father was of Irish descent. She was the third youngest of seven children. Her maternal great great grandmother, Nellie Raminjerriman, a Kaurna woman, had lived with a Russian Finn on Kangaroo Island. When Nellie died, the Finn put his children in two canoes and sent them off. One canoe came around Cape Jervis, and the children were taken in by the Ngarrindjeri people. Liza, one of these children, married Sewsty (John Wilson), who was the son of Fanny of the Coorong. Liza was Margaret Brusnahan's great grandmother.

Brusnahan's father was a railway worker from Kapunda. The family moved to Adelaide when she was about two years old. Her parents separated when she was four, and because the children were lightskinned they were taken from their mother, as their mother and their grandmother had been before them, and reared in institutions and a number of foster homes. Brusnahan was sent to the Catholic reformatory at the age of 12. After three months the nuns asked that she should be taken out of the reformatory, as she was not an 'uncontrollable child'. When she was 15 she left the orphanage, and went looking for her own people. Brusnahan found her mother's people, the Ngarrindjeri tribe from Point McLeay, Lake Alexandrina. Her grandfather, Henry Rankine and her other relatives accepted her without question, giving her a feeling of belonging and having come home.

Brusnahan married young then divorced. She later married Norman Brusnahan, and they had 12 children. With her children, she said in an interview, she shared a childhood she herself never had. She attended Tauondi Community College, to get back the interaction with her people which she missed in her childhood. Brusnahan says she has written all her life; 'my kids teethed on my work'. She hated poetry as a child, but finds that some things are easier to write than to say. From time to time she has run a writing workshop, Yunnan Pulgi, for schoolchildren, and taught Aboriginal awareness at secondary schools. Brusnahan writing has been used in the training of nurses at Underdale. In 1997 she was working in prisons with prisoners whose writings were presented at the 1998 Festival Fringe. In 1999 Brusnahan was given an award - In Recognition of an Indigenous Person for their Contribution to the Arts, by the Enfield and Port Adelaide Council.

Most Referenced Works

Affiliation Notes

  • Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal South Australian
Last amended 11 Jan 2010 11:00:39
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: