Nellie Coulthard Australian, Yankunytjatjara, b. 1947

Nellie Coulthard was born in desert bush land near Oodnadatta, on the remote property of the Wintinna Homestead Cattle Station. Her father worked as a shepherd for a local station, Nellie and her family traveled constantly and slept outdoors supporting her father and caring for the sheep. Nellie has two brothers and two sisters, and has lived at the Indulkana community since she was a young lady.  


As there was no established housing for Indigenous people in the 1950’s, Nellie and her family lived in a hand built wiltja made from found materials such as sheets of tin and dried logs and branches, close to the stationmasters home.  Nellie’s great niece Vicki Cullinan translates for her stating; 


“When I was born, the stationmasters wife had a little girl on the same day! When we were little my family had no house and no car, we were always walking wherever we had to go. There was no school, so I learnt things from my parents and the country. When I was older I saw camels for the first time but I didn’t know what they were, and my father took us for a ride on them.” 


When she was still quite young, Nellie took on a job at the Granite Downes Cattle Station in the stationmasters home. She worked with the stationmaster’s wife and other Anangu ladies washing dishes and cleaning the house in exchange for rations and tobacco for her father. Nellie married a young stockman who was also working at the Granite Downes Cattle Station, and together they came to Indulkana with their two young children.  


Nellie and her young family lived among friends and extended family at the Indulkana community, they lived in a little tin shed close to her niece Emily Cullinan and her children. Nellie took a job at the newly established pre-school and worked with young children for most of her career. After the early, sudden death of one of her own children, Nellie adopted a daughter; she is now a proud great grandma of three grandchildren and one great grandchild. 


“I was a teacher at the preschool, I loved working with the chi chi’s (children) I worked with Daisy Whiskey and Rene Sundown, now all those chi chi’s have grown up, they have their own children. I grew up in Indulkana too, I know everybody here, and it’s my home.” 


Nellie is a minyma pampa (respected senior woman) amongst both adults and children at Indulkana; many children regularly visit her while she paints at the art centre on their school lunch breaks. Ever since her early days of working at the Indulkana preschool and then as a teacher at the newly established family centre, Nellie has always had a compassion for ongoing improvements in children’s education and opportunities available to them.   


Nellie has been making paintings at the Iwantja Art Centre for many years. Her work often speaks to memories and stories of the country she recalls as a young girl, they reference her childhood experiences of living in the country. An accomplished textile maker, Nellie’s structural pieces are created with extreme skill and finesse, she enjoys making unique baskets and abstract forms with tjanpi grasses and coloured wools. 


As a talented singer and one of the founding members of the Indulkana church choir, Nellie is constantly involved in outreach and community development programs. Nellie participates in leading the Indulkana church choir each Sunday. While painting at the art centre, Nellie likes to listen to gospel recordings sung in language from other communities across the APY Lands.