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O'Keefe, Cherry (Tjapun) (c. 1895 - 1977)

c. 1895
Cambridge Downs Station, near Richmond?, Queensland, Australia
Hughenden, Queensland, Australia
Aboriginal Linguist


Cherry O'Keefe was an excellent horsewoman with a leading knowledge of the Ngawun language.


Cherry O'Keefe (Tjapun) was a Ngawun woman probably born on Cambridge Downs station, near Richmond in north Queensland. In her early days she was well known as a fine horsewoman, and, at one time, as 'the Queen of the Forest'. Later she became an expert in saddlery and leatherwork. She never married. She lived a secluded and busy life on Poseidon Downs station, west of Hughenden, where she worked hard around the homestead for the privilege of living there in a galvanised iron humpy. After surviving flood, snakebite and burns (when her humpy was burnt down after a domestic accident), she died of pneumonia in Hughenden in 1977.

Cherry O'Keefe's knowledge of the Ngawun language, though limited, was much better than anyone else's. It was owing to her that a partial grammar and vocabulary of the language was eventually produced.

Sources used to compile this entry: Horton, David (ed.). The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Vol. 2, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1994, pp. 817-8.

Leonarda Kovacic and Barbara Lemon

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