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Iris Clayton Iris Clayton i(A9757 works by) (a.k.a. Iris Rose Clayton)
Born: Established: 15 Feb 1945 Leeton, Leeton area, Leeton - Narrandera area, Riverina - Murray area, New South Wales, ; Died: Ceased: 5 Jul 2009 Bega, Bega area, Far South Coast, South Coast, New South Wales,
Gender: Female
Heritage: Aboriginal Wiradjuri ; Aboriginal
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Iris Clayton, a Wiradjuri Elder, was born at Leeton, New South Wales in 1945, the eldest child of Cecil and Lily Clayton (nee Carter). She lived at Darlington Point by the Murrumbidgee River until she was five years old when her family moved to Wattle Hill, Leeton.

In 1958 Iris with two of her brothers and three sisters were taken by the Aborigines Welfare Board - who placed her brothers in the Kinchela Boy's Home near Kempsey, and Iris with her sisters at the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls. Philippa Scarlett notes that '[Iris's] time at Cootamundra ironically consolidated the values she had begun to acquire early in life - those of family, culture and the importance of identity - all of which were under assault in the Home.

When Iris turned 15 she was placed as a domestic servant in Canberra until her release from service in 1963, when she joined her mother and stepfather in Sydney. Subsequently, she returned to Leeton on the birth of her first son where she married Tex Urquhart and had five more children.

Iris returned to Canberra in 1977 and began working at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies (AIAS) as a library assistant and later on the switchboard. Iris began to research her own family and with an Institute grant in 1987 and 1988 created genealogies of Warangesda, Maloga and Cummeragunja missions. This and her later research, including her 1997 book The Wiradjuri of the Rivers and Plains, as Scarlett notes 'continues to provide invaluable assistance to people seeking information about their families and history'. Her demonstrated interest in Aboriginal studies was recognised in 1986 when she became a member of AIAS.

In 1988, Iris with her long term partner, Mike Hinchy, bought a property on the Murrumbidgee at Hall, outside the Australian Capital Territory which she called 'Killarney' based on the Wiradjuri name of Iris' mother. Scarlett comments that the river-front property soon became 'a place where Aboriginal people could come for time out and to heal and gain perspective on their lives, meet others and make family connections.'

In her later life Iris was active in the affairs of her community. She was a member of the ACT Cultural Council, Further, was instrumental in the establishment of the ACT Aboriginal health service, Winnunga Nimmityjah, where she also worked for some years and, as a regular visitor to ACT schools, introduced Aboriginal culture to school children. (Source: Australian Aboriginal Studies 2009/2; Penny Taylor, 1988 After 200 years: Photographic Essays of Aboriginal and Islander Australia Today; Philippa Scarlett, 2009 Obituaries: Iris Rose Clayton 1945-2009; The Australian Women's Register website; David Horton (ed.), 1994 The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia).

Most Referenced Works

Last amended 4 Jun 2012 10:31:59
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