The Little Black Princess

The Little Black Princess: a True Tale of Life in the Never-Never Land is a 1905 children's novel by the Australian author Jeannie Gunn.[1][2]


The book is an account of the early life of a small Aboriginal girl who took refuge with Mrs Gunn for a short time in 1902. The child is named Bett-Bett in the novel and though the name was changed, the character is based on the events of an Aboriginal child at Elsey Station.[3] That child was said by Mrs Gunn in 1937 to have been a niece of Ibimel Wooloomool, who she described as "the King or Chief of the Elsey River tribes".[4]

Later life of Bett-Bett

In a 1937 article for the Sydney Morning Herald, Jeannie Gunn wrote that the child on whom Bett-Bett was based was moved to Darwin as a playmate and guardian for some younger children and later worked there in domestic service as a house and parlour maid, before marrying and raising two boys and a girl. In 1929 she converted to the Church of England.[4]


In 1991 Elsey Land Claim No 132 was lodged by the Northern Land Council for what had been the old Elsey cattle station. The Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Justice Gray referenced Gunn's work in trying to establish which groups were traditional owners of the various areas.


  1. Eugene Benson & L. W. Conolly, Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English. (Routledge, 30 Nov. 2004): Jeannie Gunn, page 611.
  2. Jeannie Gunn, The Little Black Princess: A True Tale of Life in the Never-Never Land. London: Alexander Moring Ltd, 1905.
  3. Gunn, Jeannie (1870–1961) by Sally O'Neill, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne UP), 1983.
  4. Gunn, Jeannie (4 February 1937). "'Little Black Princess' says 'All Well'". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
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