Olive and Eva, 1956

Sepia photo of two young Indigenous women singing.
Olive and Eva, 1956
Bauer Media Pty Limited / The Australian Women’s Weekly
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons

As a duo, Olive McGuiness and Eva Bell are largely considered to be the first Aboriginal Australians that recorded popular songs in a commercial studio. As cousins, they spent their childhood in Cowra then Sydney amongst the Wiradjuri people of NSW. It was here they met the composer of their music, Grace O’Clerkin.

Olive and Eva’s first big break was in 1955, as finalists on Australia’s nationwide radio program, Amateur Hour. Shortly after, they released their first record. Their second and last release was in 1956.

Whilst Olive stopped professionally performing that same year, Eva Bell went on to forge a successful career. Also known as Eva Mumbler, in 1962 she won the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC) Music quest. Eva was an active member of her community. In 1970 as part of her work with Sydney’s Aboriginal Family Education Centre she was presented to Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne, on their visit to Australia.

Image: Olive McGuiness (aged 18) and Eva Bell (aged 16). Source: The Australian Women’s Weekly, 7 December 1955, p.15 retrieved from Trove.