The Chaplain's Column - July 2022

The Chaplain's Column - July 2022

The Chaplain’s Column – July 2022

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The Chaplain’s Column

Fifty years ago, when it was decided that NAIDOC Day would last for a week, from the first Sunday in July to the second one, it was certainly not known that the school year would become four terms replacing the traditional three. As a result, NAIDOC now falls in the school holidays here in Queensland.  Nevertheless, at St Hilda’s we have observed NAIDOC in Junior School and Boarding House Chapels. The Boarding House Chapel concentrated on the career of William Cooper (1860-1941) who was the first person to lead an Aboriginal association that was a national body (the Australian Aborigines League). William Cooper was born in Yorta Yorta Country and spent most of his life working as shearer, drover, horse-breaker, and bush labourer but throughout his life, he was tireless in working to better the conditions of his people. These endeavours included organising petitions to parliament (both state and federal), a direct petition to the Crown in 1933 and organising a Day of Mourning to commemorate the advent of colonisation on Australia Day, 1938 which was the 150th anniversary of white settlement. It is this last activity which has had lasting significance because this Day of Mourning, which he helped organised, has become, over time, NAIDOC Week. His influence extended to the next generation of Aboriginal leaders and culminated in the 1967 referendum. It is this referendum that gave the Federal Government the right to make laws concerning Indigenous Australians and also removed racist elements of the Australian Constitution. William Cooper was not just moved to activism by the plight of his people alone, but he was also motivated by his devout Christian faith. He became a committed Christian at the age of 24, and from his reading of the Bible, saw that the plight of his people paralleled that of the Jews in exile both in the Old Testament and in his own time. In December 1938, after the Nazis had organised Kristallnacht in Germany, when many synagogues and Jewish businesses were destroyed, he led a delegation of members of the Australian Aboriginal League to the German Consulate in Melbourne to present a petition condemning the Nazis persecutions of the Jews. At the time, the consulate refused to accept this petition but did when Cooper’s grandson presented a replica some 79 years later. His brave stance has been recognised not only here in Australia but also in the state of Israel itself. It is noteworthy that his most prolific work as an activist, was when he was officially retired and into his seventies! Thus, the life and work of William Cooper is one of the foundations on which NAIDOC stands. William Cooper should be remembered by all Australians who truly care for their country as he embodied the theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week: “Get up! Stand up! Show up!”

Fr Patrick Duckworth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love, Compassion, Forgiveness, Hope, Grace