Jimmy James (tracker)

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Jimmy James OAM (1913–91)[1] was an Aboriginal Australian and member of the Pitjantjatjara people, who was best known as an Aboriginal tracker who helped South Australian Police in tracking criminals over a forty-year period.

Born near Ernabella (now Pukatja) in central Australia to his parents, Warlawurru and Kaarnka, he spent his late childhood at the Ooldea Mission. He left the area in 1945, after being wrongfully arrested, and headed to the South Australian Riverland, where he assisted in the establishment of the Gerard Mission. It was there that he married Lilian Disher in 1947. In 1948, James began his career as a tracker for police and landowners, and gained much of his reputation tracking criminals (including arsonists, poachers and escapees) and lost persons. His successes including tracking escapee James Smith and finding Wendy Pfeiffer (who was nine years old at the time) after she was abducted near Mylor.[2]

Jimmy James was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1984 and the inaugural South Australian Aboriginal Person of the Year in 1983, and he was given a gold medallion by the family of Wendy Pfeiffer.[2][3] After his death, a memorial to Jimmy James was erected in Berri, South Australia.[4]


  1. ^ Holmes 2003, p. 66. While Jimmy James' birthdate was not officially recorded, he claimed that he had been born in 1913.
  2. ^ a b Holmes 2003, p. 66
  3. ^ "Police halt medals auction" & 24 June 2007
  4. ^ "Berri" & 8 February 2004