Vale Dr William Peasley AM
Died 2nd January, 2020 - aged 92
Dr William Peasley was well known as an author of books about Aboriginal history and Australian Explorers including the fascinating story of the rescue of two old Aboriginals from the remote Gibson Desert in 1977 (“Last of the Nomads” - Fremantle Press 1983) and the explorer David Carnegie (“In the Hands of Providence. The Desert Journeys of David Carnegie” - St George Books 1995 & the full version by Hesperian Press 2013).
Originally from Bedgerabong, NSW, he left his father's small farm on the Lachlan River in 1945, his medical degree obtained with help from the Australian Army following his discharge. He packed up his family and drove to Perth in a 1946 Mark 4 Jaguar (an adventure in itself) to work as a GP before becoming a Flying Doctor in the Pilbara and
Kimberleys, which included remote work with Aboriginal people (his journal was published by Hesperian Press in 2014 as "The Last Outposts. From Port of Pearls to Desert Sands. A Flying Doctor in NW Australia"). Bill told us that during his time in Broome he was "the sole doctor, also the dentist, the vet, the pathologist, the x-ray operator and performer of burial services (as there was often no clergyman about to bury my mistakes)". Old Aboriginal friends gave him the name "Wati Yinna", which means "Old Man", even though at the time he was quite young! He was honoured by the name and often used it to sign off his emails to us.
His many desert expeditions that followed were testament to his dedication to the early explorers and Aboriginal history. Mick & I first contacted Bill in 2005 and his help and encouragement from that day never waned. He travelled with Mick and I in 2010, with his faithful companion Chris Gilbert (Chris died a couple of years ago), which for us was an absolute privilege. Bill in turn was impressed by Mick's ability to read the country, likening it to that of his old Aboriginal guide Mudjon. Another journal of Bill's was published by Hesperian Press in 2013 called "Through Spinifex and Sand to the Last Desert Family", telling of the finding of Aboriginal family Namma & Naomi and children in 1976 and their
relocation to Wiluna. In 2015 Bill was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) "For significant service to the community as an inland explorer, historian and author, and as a general practitioner".
Bill eventually hung up his camping hat after over 40 years of exploration, having moved back to Broome from Perth in 2012 after the death of his wife. By then his memory was slowly failing but he loved it there and for him it held many memories. He will be missed.
Mick & I, and the whole Beadell family, pass on our sincere condolences to his family.
Story & photos by Connie Sue Beadell & Mick Hutton