Territory Stories

Mercia Butler



Mercia Butler,


Butler, Mercia Roberts, Roberts, Mercia,


Mercia Butler,


Territory Women, HistoryNT,

Place of birth

Roper River,

Date of birth



Catholic Nun, Nurse,

Cultural heritage

Indigenous Australian,

Biographical notes

Mercia was a baby when her mother was admitted to the leprosy hospital on Channel Island. In 1940 she was taken from the Island and told her family at Roper River Mission did not want her. Mercia was transferred to a new Mission at Garden Point in 1941, for mixed race children even though she was a ‘full-blood' Aborigine. On the 18th February 1942 an emergency was declared, the Sisters and children were transported to Darwin by boat. The next day Mercia and the other children were playing when they saw the bombs being dropped on the city of Darwin. The American soldiers put the children under the school and covered them with mattresses. The group was then transported to Adelaide and housed on a farm at Carrieton in South Australia. In 1956 Mercia decided to become a Catholic nun and was sent to Port Moresby to join an indigenous order 'Handmaids of Our Lord'. Here Mercia commenced her studies in ‘Maternal and Child Health' at Badili, Port Moresby and successfully completed the course in three years. After 12 years, she longed to meet her family which she had never known and visited Darwin in 1968, on arrival, her father and brothers were there to greet her. Mercia decided to leave the Order and found work at Darwin Hospital. Her desire was to train as a registered nurse but this was not possible because her certificates from New Guinea were not recognised in Australia. Mercia visited her mother's people at Roper River where she met and married Herbert Butler a Telecom linesman based at Alice Springs and had a son. Mercia still wanted to become a nurse and enrolled in a Nurse Aid course at Alice Springs Hospital in 1976. She worked at the hospital for a time and then transferred to the Community Health Services to be more involved with the Aboriginal people.,


Women, Northern Territory,

Related links

http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/5981629, http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/5981629 [Carment, D. 1949-. Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography. Rev. ed. ed. Darwin: Charles Darwin University Press, 2008.],

Parent handle