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William Cooper is one of Australia's Great Heroes

Posted by Bronwyn Newnham on

In 1939 Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Adolf Hitler.

Gandhi was disappointed in a European culture where he believed there was such an entrenched belief that violence "could only be matched by a superior destructive force".

He wrote to Hitler asking him to seek peaceful solutions to Germany's problems in Europe, adding "You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud".

This letter was not sent on to Hitler by the colonial government of India. 

There was another man of colour, an Australian Indigenous Elder, a proud Yorta Yorta man, and a political activist, who was disturbed and horrified by the actions of Hitler.

He was a man who had less that 7 months of school through his early life, a man who was one of the workers forcibly retained by the Moira and Ulupna station managers. As an adult he attended literacy classes and began to read widely. He became deeply involved in peaceful political action to attempt to gain Indigenous representation in Parliament in order to relieve the suffering of Indigenous Australians across our nation. His name was William Cooper. 

On 6 December 1938, after a series of horrifying attacks across Germany against their Jewish citizens, Cooper led an Indigenous delegation to the German Consulate in Melbourne to deliver a petition which condemned the "cruel persecution of the Jewish people by Hitler's Nazi Government ".

The German Consulate did not accept the petition.

We have long been fed a stereotypical Indigenous Australian Image in our news and in our edited history lessons in school. It is time we had the courage and the national character to understand that we have nothing to be proud of in the history and the manner of our relationship with Indigenous Australians.

 

References:

  1. ABC News: Aboriginal Elder William Cooper's anti Nazi Protest remembered on Kristallnacht's 80th anniversary.
  2. The Australian Dictionary of Biography, William Cooper. by Dianne Barwick
  3. Wikipedia: William Cooper
  4. Time Magazine, 'Read Gandhi's Letters to Hitler'
  5. Deadly Story: Cummeragunja Residents protest against cruel treatment.
  6. Monash University: 'William Cooper a visionary Indigenous campaigner in a league of his own'.
  7. National Museum of Australia: William Cooper Protests
  8. 'Common Grace Hero William Cooper', by Matt Busby Andrews

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