Friday, May 8, 2009

NSW Greats 6 - Mum Shirl & Doug Nicholls

OK I'm over 10 for NSW, but I'm sorry. Mum Shirl just has to go on the list.  I missed her as I forgot to check my list we brainstormed in the car recently... and to cap it off, I find I'm going to have to allocate Doug Nicholls to NSW...

Mum Shirl worked tirelessly for indigenous people, helping people in trouble with the law, visiting inmates in jail, finding their families, established the first aboriginal medical service, the aboriginal legal service and she was a prominent aboriginal rights activist.  She took in many many kids who had no home to go to and raised them.  This seems a short little entry, but it reflects a very great very loving and strong woman who will and should be remembered by us all for all she contributed.

It is so difficult to allocate Doug Nicholls to one State and may move his listing to a generic Australian list at some point.  Born and raised at Cumeragunja in NSW, he played AFL (Aussie Rules football) for Fitzroy, worked tirelessly for the benefit of indigenous people establishing hostels in Melbourne for aboriginal youths and working as an activist for Aboriginal rights.  he was twice honoured in the Queens birthday honours list and said the MBE stood for "more black than ever".  He became the first Aboriginal Governor of an Australian State - South Australia and is buried at Cumeragunja. 
Doug Nicholls came from a line of activists. His uncle William Cooper was an activist also.  There have always been activists come to that, it's just that the broader society never heard, or perhaps appreciated their courage and strength.  Aboriginal activism is not a new thing.  It's hard really to select one or two or three and seems somehow perverse to select Doug Nicholls because he was honoured by a society that victimised his people.  However, it does say something about the respect with which he was held by the wider community that he was appointed to the Governor's position. 
His autobiography, The Boy from Cumeragunja is worth reading.  A very interesting book.

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