Still Here – A brief History of Aboriginal People in Melbourne’s West

Panel 6 – Political Movements

This is how much of the Aboriginal world today was shaped…

“It was not possible for Aboriginal people from around the Murray River to solve the problems their people faced from within their tribal or mission boundaries. Melbourne was the Euro-Australians’ social, economic and political capital of Victoria and it was where you had to go to fight for your people’s rights to be Citizens.”

“Some of the rights they were fighting for were…the right to be recognised as a people who belong to a country; the right to own a home, to own land; the right to earn a decent wage and get an education; the right to get medical and legal assistance; the right to vote; and worst of all, the right to be allowed to walk the streets which were once part of their belonging.”

“They became our collective voice which was speaking, but until then, not being heard. This was the 1930’s.”

Aboriginal people such as William Cooper, Marge Tucker and Pastor Doug Nicholls and many others began a modern Aboriginal political movement called the Australian Aborigines league.

They fought together with many other Aboriginal and Islander people for Aboriginal people’s rights.

“All three came originally from a Mission settlement called Cummeragunga (also spelt Cumeroogunga) which was situated in N.S.W. on the Murray River near Echuca.”

“William Cooper was born around the 1360s. This was the era of the birth of the unwritten assimilation policies and the Aboriginal Missions and Reserves Acts. Later, Marge Tucker and Doug Nicholls both grew up living in and around the same Mission Station, “Cummera” (Cummeragunga) whilst these acts were at the height of their full power.”

“William Cooper from his 20’s, would have had to carry one of those “dog tags” (the ‘Exemption from Provisions of Aborigines Protection Act and Regulations’ document). Marge Tucker was taken away from her family and was sent to what they called “a training school” which was a mission station for children (similar to an orphanage). This Mission station was to train them to be servants of the Euro-Australian. ASSIMILATI0N.”

Click the button to download: Aborigines’ Advancement League Constitution of 1941 (pdf 3.9 MB)