Margaret Lawrie

In 1964, Margaret Lawrie was invited by the Queensland Government to prepare a report on child health and education in the Cape and Torres Strait communities. Her fieldwork and experiences in the Islands led her in 1966 to begin considering collecting and analysing the Islanders' folk tales. While in the Torres Strait, Margaret Lawrie recounts that:

The people… told me that they feared their old stories were being forgotten, [and] I promised my help in the task of gathering them together. If I could do this and with the Islanders' help translate them and put them in a book, the old tales would live on and be always available – not only to the Islanders, wherever they might be, but to all others with an interest in them.

This collection of stories culminated in the 1970 publication of Myths and legends of Torres Strait followed, in 1972, by Tales from Torres Strait.

In 1988, Margaret Lawrie approached the John Oxley Library to donate her research notes that contributed to Myths and legends and Tales from Torres Strait. The first part of the collection arrived in November 1988. Colin Sheehan recalls that Margaret Lawrie "always wanted material to be available for Torres Strait Islanders in accordance with ailan pasin and this was one of the reasons she chose to deposit [her collection] in the John Oxley Library" (ailan pasin is central to Torres Strait Islander community and cultural harmony governing how Islanders interact with each other and the application of cultural protocols and custom).

The Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Strait Islands Material includes a large number of research notes, artworks, a handwritten transcript of the stories collected, the social and cultural history of the people and region including the history of the London Missionary Society's arrival and dispersal in the Strait, and Islander genealogies. Also included is an extensive photo documentary collection as well as film and sound recordings.