The writer Xavier Herbert (1901-1984) was born in Geraldton, Western Australia. Like Katharine Susannah Prichard, he wrote about the plight of Aboriginal people in the north of Australia. I haven’t uncovered any meeting between them or letters, although it’s possible they crossed paths a couple of times. He was infamously a difficult personality, and his politics was very different to hers – he was involved with the Australia First Movement during the Second World War. Katharine certainly knew his work and wrote appreciatively of his novel Capricornia in her 1939 essay “The Aborigine in Australian Literature”. The terms Katharine uses in the essay are a problem today, but I quote from it to give an idea of a white person eighty years ago beginning to reckon with the dark history of the treatment of Aboriginal people:

When I wrote Coonardoo it was to expose the plight of the aboriginal woman and the half-caste problem. These were considered forbidden subjects at the time. Everybody in the north-west knows what “black velvet” means and the implications of a half-caste population, but by general consent they have been shrouded in silence.

With the publication of Capricornia by Xavier Herbert, that silence has been broken for ever. This book won the Commonwealth Centenary Prize and is the outstanding novel of the year.

A grim and powerful piece of realism, it stands against romantic fiction about the aborigines, against the slavery of natives and half-castes on outback stations, in mission settlements and in Government compounds. Capricornia is the first real defence the aborigines ever had. It is stark and uncompromising in its indictment of the forces responsible for the disgraceful and outrageous state of native affairs in the Northern Territory. (pp. 52-53)

Herbert published his autobiography at the same time as Katharine. She thought his attracted better reviews because it was more frank about sex, but the reality was she didn’t treat autobiography as a literary enterprise while he did.