Pearl Gibbs “Gambanyi’s” 120th Birthday – Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Yuwi, Torres Strait Islander and South Sea Islander guest artist Dylan Mooney, celebrates revolutionary Aboriginal Australian activist Pearl Gibbs “Gambanyi”, who is widely regarded among the 20th-century’s leading advocates for Aboriginal rights.
Pearl Mary Gibbs “Gambanyi” was born on this day in 1901 to an Aboriginal mother and a non-Aboriginal father in La Perouse, New South Wales. At 16, Gibbs moved with her family to Sydney, where she worked as a servant. It was here that she met Aboriginal girls stolen from their homes and forced into domestic work—injustices that sparked her lifetime devotion to the fight for Aboriginal rights.
In 1937, Gibbs helped form the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA), an all-Aboriginal activist alliance that campaigned for Aboriginal citizenship, suffrage, and an end to unjust governmental bodies. As APA secretary beginning in 1938, she exposed the inhumane conditions and exploitation of women and children at government-run Aboriginal reserves. A public speaker as charismatic as she was influential, Gibbs helped organize the Day of Mourning protest that same year. Widely credited as the catalyst of the contemporary Aboriginal political movement, this demonstration was the first to bring the plight of Indigenous Australians to national attention.
Gibbs never faltered in her efforts for Indigenous justice over the decades that followed, a struggle that culminated in 1954 when the New South Wales Aborigines Welfare Board appointed her as its first—and only—female member. She also helped organize the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship (AAF) in 1956. With Gibbs at the helm, the AAF petitioned for a change in the Australian constitution, which paved the way for the 1967 referendum that granted Indigenous Australians suffrage and citizenship.
Today’s Doodle artwork depicts Gibbs’ life, legacy, and dedication to improving the lives of Aboriginal Australians—symbolized, for instance, by the Flannel Flowers on her dress, an icon she adopted to represent resilience.
Happy Birthday, Pearl Gibbs “Gambanyi,” and thank you for your lifetime devotion to building a more equitable world.
Thank you to Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi artist, Lynette Riley, for contributing to this Doodle artwork. The concentric circles along the bottom of the artwork is a design by Lynette Riley representing Pearl Gibbs’ family tree and the history of her family.
Special thanks to the family of Pearl Gibbs “Gambanyi” for their partnership on this project. Below her granddaughter, Anny, shares her thoughts on her grandmother’s legacy:
Pearl Gibbs was stridently outspoken, never shy at stepping up and certainly no shrinking violet when it came to shouting from the rooftops about the social injustices experienced by her beloved black brothers and sisters. Historian Heather Goodall once described her as “charming, persuasive and abrasive”.
It seems there was no shortage of information about Gibbs for people to write about; however she kept her personal life secret. Even though she was a passionate speaker there was one thing people in her professional and personal circles had never heard from her lips—as a single parent, around the age of 30, her three young children under ten were removed by her estranged husband. No reason, no explanation, no redress. It’s not hard to imagine her grief, her sense of loss and the daily impact of a lifetime of being isolated from her family. Not once did she share the heartbreak of losing her children or her ten grandchildren while she was still alive. Not once did she put herself out as being more important than her messages about the mistreatment of young Aboriginal women, their families and their communities. We family members have long suspected her personal losses fuelled her passionate life long fight for Aboriginal people’s rights for past, present and future generations.
We are thankful Google has chosen to showcase our nana so she can be more widely recognised, acknowledged and honoured. As a First Nation social rights and justice activist, Pearl Gibbs was the first at many things for a woman of her time. We reckon our nana would probably have not wanted the focus on her as a person, but rather on her achievements. There is a first time for everything.
Pictured: Helen Druett (granddaughter), Simone Cambey (great-granddaughter) and Anny Druett (granddaughter)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the family of Pearl Gibbs “Gambanyi”
Guest Artist Q&A with Dylan Mooney
Today’s Doodle was illustrated by Yuwi, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander guest artist Dylan Mooney. Below, he shares his thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q. Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A. This topic was important to me not only because of the work Aunty Pearl Gibbs has done for Aboriginal people, but also her work with women and children. She created change for our people to keep thriving.
Q. What were your first thoughts when you were approached about working on this Doodle?
A. I couldn’t believe it, being approached by a big company such as Google you know it was a bit overwhelming. But I’m so proud to have worked with Google and Aunty Pearl Gibbs’ family to bring this work to life.
Q. What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A. My hope is that people reflect on our history within Australia and know our past and what Aunty Pearl Gibbs has done for this nation. I also hope that Indigenous women are celebrated for what they do for our community, in whatever that may be. Indigenous women are our heroes.
You can find more about Pearl Gibbs “Gambanyi’s” 120th Birthday on the official Google Doodle Page