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About David M. Welch

Dr David M. Welch is a general medical practitioner based in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia, who has worked with Aboriginal people since the 1970s, researched their rock art (painted shelters and engraved rocks) and other aspects of their culture, and written more than thirty journal articles, reports and books on the subject.

In 1976, as a medical student, David Welch travelled through Pitjantjatjara lands, from Alice Springs into the Western Desert, to Aboriginal camps near Docker River, Giles Meteorological Station, the Mann Ranges, and the Musgrave Ranges. This was with Dr Trevor Cutter, the first medical practitioner working at the newly-established Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (a medical clinic in Alice Springs), to investigate the health of Aboriginal people living in small remote communities across the region.

In 1979, Dr Welch graduated from the University of New South Wales and moved to Darwin, working at the old Darwin Hospital at the end of Smith Street in the city, and then at the new Casuarina Hospital, now known as the Royal Darwin Hospital. In 1982, Dr Welch commenced general practice at Stuart Park Surgery, where he still works.

Also in 1979, Dr Welch commencing part-time research into the Aboriginal rock shelter paintings of the Kakadu and western Arnhem Land region, recording legends and cultural information from Aboriginal elders. In 1982, he published Aboriginal Rock Art of Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory of Australia, which was the first commercially-produced book about the newly-formed Kakadu National Park.

Research has included the documentation of nearly 2,000 Kimberley (north Western Australia) Aboriginal rock art sites, the development of a chronological sequence for Kimberley rock art (announced in 1990 and 1992), and the publication of numerous articles and books on the subject. Other research has included the recording of Aboriginal rock art sites across Australia, including a systematic survey of rock shelter paintings on Groote Eylandt (an island in the Gulf of Carpentaria, which is part of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory) on behalf of Traditional Owners and the Anindilyakwa Land Council.

In recent years, time has been spent working with Reggie Sultan, an Aboriginal artist living in Darwin, to produce a series of children’s books, most with an Aboriginal theme, aimed to educate children and their parents about various aspects of Aboriginal culture. Work has also been done to produce A History and Field Guide to The Grampians (Gariwerd), Western Victoria, which includes 58 pages describing the Aboriginal history and rock art of the region.

Other work by David M. Welch includes the compilation, editing and publication of the biographies of Reggie Sultan (the Aboriginal artist), Judy Opitz (who set up the first general store in what is now Kakadu National Park) and Dick Dakeyne (an Australian World War Two veteran who served near Darwin, flew on American planes, and was nominated by the Americans to receive the Medal of Freedom, their highest honour).

Work is continuing to complete several large manuscripts describing Aboriginal art and Aboriginal culture, and more children’s books with Reggie Sultan are planned.

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