Abstract: Apart from a single brief paper written by DS Davidson and published in 1947, and a detailed description of bark sandals from the Tanami desert region by DF Thomson in 1960, most attention in relation to Aboriginal Australian footwear has focused on the emu-feather and hairstring kadaitcha shoes or slippers of Central Australia.
With soles made from emu feathers and uppers of knitted or woven twine of human hair or animal fur, kadaitcha shoes are the most familiar form of footwear used by Aboriginal Australians.
The manufacture of kadaitcha shoes for sale seems to have begun soon after they were first reported.
Spencer and Gillen noted that true kadaitcha shoes have a hole in the upper to accommodate the dislocated toe of the wearer.
The netted fur-string shoes do not appear to fulfil the same function as kadaitcha shoes, which Mathews goes on to consider in his next paragraph.
The exceptions are the bark sandals of the Western Deserts and adjacent areas, and the feather-soled kadaitcha shoes. The use of the former type of footwear in the arid regions into recent times can be explained by the fact that the inhabitants of these areas were among some of the last to have direct contact with non-Aboriginal Australians.
The use of the feathered kadaitcha shoes not only concealed the identity of members of a raiding party but also warned any who may have stumbled over the blurred tracks that ahead was an enemy endowed with magical as well as other powers and strengths.
While traditionally footwear had a limited distribution on the continent, the use of at least one form intimately associated with magical killing and sorcery, the kadaitcha shoe, seems to have been spreading in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Davidson (1947:116-18) described the use of such footwear as restricted to the southern sections of the Northern Territory and from South Australia, west of Lake Eyre, extending into Western Australia; in Western Australia the use of the kadaitcha shoe was limited to the Gibson Desert, extending south-east into the Eastern Goldfields region and north-east into the northern Pilbara.