Aboriginal activist Charles "Chicka" Dixon has died in Sydney

Charles 'Chicka' Dixon

Charles 'Chicka' Dixon

1928 - 2010
Lest we Forget

Go to Chicka Dixon State Funeral

Charles Dixon, sometimes known as The Fox was born in 1928. He attributes the beginnings of his political education to hearing Jack Patten speak when he was 18. As a young man he worked on the Sydney wharves where the Waterside Workers' Federation taught him how to organise. Chicka Dixon campaigned for a YES vote in the 1967 Referendum and was an active participant at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972.

He attended Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) annual conferences in the 1960s and, in 1970, was convenor of the Trade Union committee of the Federal Council. Dixon was also an active member of the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs and as Manager in 1967 he went surety for men charged with petty crimes and was always there for a talk when it was needed.

Aboriginal activist & one of first inhabitants of Aboriginal Tent Embassy Chicka Dixon talks over old times with former Atorney General in Whitlam government Kep Enderby outside 'Tent Embassy'.
Image Source: southern-courier

In 1972 Chicka Dixon was a part of a delegation of Aboriginal Australians invited to visit China to tell the Chinese about the Aboriginal struggle for justice while at the same time shaming the federal government. With the election of the Whitlam Labor government he was sent to the USA and to Canada to study alcohol rehabilitation programs especially among Amerindian and Afro-American people.

With the development of funded Aboriginal organisations in the 1970s, Chicka Dixon became a foundation member of the Aboriginal Arts Board in 1973. He went on to become Chairman and was effective in pressing for reforms in funding for Indigenous artists. Earlier he had worked with Mum Shirl, Fred Hollows and others to establish the Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service.

Aboriginal community mourns Chicka Dixon

AAP news.smh.com.au 22nd March 2010

Charles 'Chicka' Dixon
Image: kooriweb.org

Australia's indigenous community is mourning the loss of "one of the most influential figures in contemporary Aboriginal Australia" after the death of Charles "Chicka" Dixon.

Mr Dixon, 81, died at a Sydney nursing home on Saturday afternoon from asbestosis, which the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) says he contracted as a wharf worker.

Born in 1928, he was a national figure and active in the campaign for the 1967 referendum on citizenship for indigenous Australians, and the NSW Government has offered his family a state funeral.

"While I was aware he had been ill for some time, I was nevertheless deeply upset by the news that he had passed away," NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chairwoman Bev Manton said on Monday in a statement.

"Chicka was originally from Wallaga Lake and Wreck Bay reserves on the (NSW) South Coast and was one of the most influential figures in contemporary Aboriginal Australia."

In the 1950s, Mr Dixon was involved in the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and setting up services in the Redfern community in Sydney.

"Mr Dixon spent his life fighting for the rights of indigenous Australians," NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said.

Mr Dixon was also a founding member of the NSW Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Medical Service, as well as being involved in the establishment of the Tent Embassy in Canberra in January 1972.

"He dedicated his life to fighting for basic human rights and justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," Ms Manton said.

His political involvement began in 1946 and in 1963 he joined the Waterside Workers Union.

"In 1972 he led a delegation of Aboriginal Australians invited to visit China to tell the Chinese about the Aboriginal struggle for justice while at the same time shaming the federal government," Ms Manton said.

A foundation member of the Aboriginal Arts Board, Mr Dixon was also the first Aboriginal person to be appointed as a councillor on the Australia Council.

"The Chicka Dixon story is the story of one of Australia's gutsiest fighters for human rights," Ms Manton said.

The MUA echoed Ms Manton's comments, adding that he was a "man of character, substance and unwavering courage".

"Chicka was a worker, leader and activist who was determined to turn around racism and elitism and gain proper recognition for the extraordinary culture and character of his people and the great injustice done to them," MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin said.

Mr Dixon is survived by his two daughters, Rhonda and Christine, his brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and extended family.

Aboriginal activist Charles 'Chicka' Dixon to receive state funeral

Joel Gibson Sydney Morning Herald March 23, 2010

Charles 'Chicka' Dixon
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales

Charles "Chicka" Dixon, one of the most prominent Aboriginal activists of the 1960s and 1970s, has died after a long battle with asbestosis, aged 81.

A ringleader in the decade-long campaign for the 1967 referendum to include indigenous people in the census and in the 1972 erection of the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra, Mr Dixon died in a La Perouse nursing home on Saturday afternoon, surrounded by family.

His family decided yesterday to accept an offer from the Premier, Kristina Keneally, of a state funeral, but a date has not been set.

"Mr Dixon spent his life fighting for the rights of indigenous Australians," Ms Keneally said, describing him as a national figure and a statesman and ambassador for human rights and Aboriginal social justice.

Mr Dixon grew up at the Wallaga Lake Aboriginal mission on the South Coast before finding work as a labourer on the waterfront at Port Kembla and in Sydney. From there, he became involved with the Waterside Workers Federation and used the organising skills he learnt in the fight for indigenous rights.

Mr Dixon was chairman of the Aboriginal Arts Board and a foundation member of the first Aboriginal Legal and Medical Services in Redfern.

He upset the Australian government by taking an Aboriginal delegation to China in 1972 and was monitored extensively by ASIO along with several other activists at the time.

Jonathan Bogais, a journalist who is writing a book and producing a documentary about Mr Dixon with the late activist's daughter Rhonda, said he was enormously influential.

"He was a typical leader, who never wanted to be a politician but aimed at creating embarrassment for the state so it would react to situations. He spent his life creating a better situation for his people."

Naomi Mayers, chief executive of Redfern's Aboriginal Medical Service, said Mr Dixon was one of the fighters who will be remembered from the '60s and '70s.

"He and his wife Elsa were really good at looking after the young people, and they idolised him," she said.

The Community Services Minister, Linda Burney, said Mr Dixon had iconic status across Australia. "He was a mentor and teacher to thousands ... the lessons in life you learnt were lessons that would serve you well forever."