Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kristé Martinovich (1903–1966)

by E. Jaggard

This article was published:

Kristé Martinovich (1903?-1966), chiropractor, was born probably on 20 July 1903 on Brac, an island off Dalmatia, Austria-Hungary, son of Ivan Martinovich, farmer, and his wife Mariza, née Yaksich. He worked as a farmer before emigrating to Western Australia in 1922.

Having lived in Perth for several years, Martinovich moved to Boulder and took a job in the gold-mines. At All Hallows Catholic Church, Boulder, on 21 December 1927 he married 18-year-old Mary Pincetich who came from Dalmatia. During the 1930s the family stayed briefly in Perth before returning to the goldfields. Employed as a gardener and as an underground miner at Wiluna, Martinovich occasionally used the chiropractic techniques he had learned from his father. By 1947 he was back at Boulder, working in the Lake View and Star mine. Meanwhile, as a part-time masseur, he treated local footballers and his reputation soared. Having contracted silicosis, he retired from mining in 1953 to become a chiropractor. His lack of formal qualifications, and successful treatment of people whom doctors had failed to cure, led to mounting opposition from the medical profession, but he received support from the Goldfields Football League and the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia.

Martinovich was a tall, lean, quietly spoken man. Apart from bowls and cards, he had few outside interests and worked long hours each day. His method was simple: he examined a patient and applied a linseed poultice to the injury; next day he manipulated the bones and muscles, and applied a poultice containing egg-white; two days later the poultice was removed; he then used a tennis ball or the rubber core of a golf ball wrapped in towelling to assist with manipulation, and was reputed to 'press hard'. Instead of billing his patients, he asked for a donation. In the 1950s dramatic improvements resulting from his care were described in Australian newspaper articles with headings such as 'Wonder Healer' and 'Miracle Man'. The prominence of a number of his patients enhanced his fame, as did the way in which he defied his critics.

In 1957 Martinovich moved to South Fremantle to teach others his methods and to serve his large metropolitan clientele. He established a successful clinic and trained three of his sons as chiropractors. Following the report of a royal commission into the provisions of a bill to regulate the activities of natural therapists, the State government established the chiropractors' registration board in 1964. Registration was confined to those who had gained a formal qualification, but long-time practitioners were granted exemption.

After his legs had been amputated in 1960 due to Buerger's disease, Martinovich ceased practice. By then his name was synonymous with the chiropractic profession in Western Australia. Many revered him for his extraordinary healing abilities. When pressed to discuss his gifts, he replied simply, 'I'm only here to help people'. He died of chronic myocardial ischaemia on 21 June 1966 in Bethesda Hospital, Claremont, and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery; his wife, two daughters and four sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Weekend Mail (Perth), 23, 30 July 1955, 20 Oct 1956
  • West Australian, 31 Dec 1955, 23 June 1966
  • Australasian Post, 31 May 1956
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

E. Jaggard, 'Martinovich, Kristé (1903–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Martinovich, Kriste

20 July, 1903
Brac, Croatia


21 June, 1966 (aged 62)
Claremont, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.