This photograph was taken by Walter Baldwin Spencer during his time as a member of a Commonwealth Government party travelling across northern Australia to investigate possibilities for future development of the Northern Territory. The year was 1911 when the Commonwealth of Australia took over responsibility for the Territory. Spencer was one of the founding fathers of anthropology in Australia and Director of the then National Museum of Victoria (now Museum Victoria) from 1899 to 1928. Spencer was actively involved in fieldwork and research from 1894, when he joined the Horn Expedition as zoologist and photographer, a joint project of the three existing Australian universities, investigating the MacDonnell Ranges and surrounding area of Central Australia. For Spencer it was the beginning of a life-long interest in, and study of, the Aboriginal people of central and northern Australia.
Spencer undertook numerous anthropological field trips in the central desert and northern regions of Australia throughout his career. For three months from mid-1911, Spencer accompanied Dr Gilruth, the newly appointed Administrator, and others on a tour that extended from Darwin over four major river basins and to several offshore islands. With responsibilities to report on the condition of the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, he was appointed the following year as 'Special Commissioner for Aboriginals and Chief Protector in charge of the Department instituted to safeguard the interests of the aboriginal population'.