Charles Duguid (6 April 1884 – 5 December 1986) was a Scottish-born medical practitioner and Aboriginal rights campaigner who recorded his experience working among the Australian Aborigines in a number of books.
Charles Duguid was born at Eglinton Street in Saltcoats, Ayrshire, the son of Charles Duguid, a teacher, and Jane Snodgrass Kinnier, daughter of Robert S Kinnier, a surgeon, sister of Captain Douglas Reid Kinnier. He attended Ardrossan Academy, where his father was Headmaster between 1882 and 1889, and the High School in Glasgow, before studying medicine at Glasgow University where he gained M.A. (Master of Arts) in 1905 and MB, Ch.B., (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) in 1909.
Whilst teaching at Glasgow University, Duguid worked as a doctor in the slums of Glasgow, but in 1911 he signed on as ship's surgeon for a voyage to and from Australia. This experience led him to emigrate to Australia in 1912. In February 1917, Duguid sailed for Egypt as a volunteer medical officer with the Australian Light Horse Brigade. He returned to Scotland in 1919 for post-graduate study and to sit the examinations for surgical fellowship.
Life in Australia
Duguid practised as a General Practitioner in Nhill, Victoria where he married Irene Young, with whom he had one son, also called Charles. After his wife died in 1927, Duguid married Phyllis Lade. They had two children, Andrew and Rosemary. In 1941 Duguid moved to Adelaide to practise as a gynaecologist and obstetrician.
The murder of a white man by Aboriginals at Landers Creek, Northern Territory, sparked Duguid's interest in Aboriginal rights. The police shot 17 Aboriginals during the course of the hunt for the murderer. His wife founded the Aboriginal Advancement League in 1935 and Duguid served as President in 1935 and later between 1951 and 1961.
In 1937, Duguid helped to found Ernabella Mission in the Musgrave Ranges of South Australia. He lectured and spoke in the United Kingdom as well as Australia and New Zealand about the conditions of the Australian Aborigines.
Duguid was appointed a founding member (1940) of South Australia’s Aborigines Protection Board, Duguid inspected reserves throughout the State, noting abuses against Aborigines on pastoral properties and discrimination in education. The Duguids, with their two children and their fostered Aboriginal son, Sydney James Cook, visited Ernabella in 1946. Soon afterwards they heard of the British proposal to test guided weapons over South Australia from a base to be built at Woomera. Concerned about the impact of the rocket range on the inhabitants of the Central Australian reserves, Duguid criticised the scheme at public meetings in Adelaide and, with Donald Thomson, in Melbourne. Duguid resigned from the Aborigines Protection Board when it approved the proposal, but as a result of the protests a patrol officer, Walter MacDougall, was appointed at Woomera.
He was active in other organisations concerned with the advancement of Aboriginal rights such as the Council for Aboriginal Rights and the Association for the Protection of Native Races. He also led the 1947 campaign against the establishment of a British-Australian rocket testing program at Woomera in the Central Australian Desert. He worked closely with Donald Thomson to inform the public of the harmful effect that this program would have on those people still living traditionally, nearby.
In 1970, Duguid was awarded the OBE for his work with Aborigines and four years later, in 1974 he received the Anisfield-Wolf Award in Race Relations for his autobiography Doctor and the Aborigines.
In addition to his work with Australian Aborigines, Duguid helped to found the Australian branch of the English-Speaking Union, of which he was Chairman in 1932.
In 1935, he was elected Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Australia.
Duguid died in Adelaide on 5 December 1986 at the age of 102. He was buried at Ernabella.