Victorian bridge named in honour of Yorta Yorta human rights activist

William CooperWilliam Cooper Bridge - Source: Maribyrnong Leader
William Cooper - The Bridge

ABOUT WILLIAM COOPER

Footscray Station bridge has been named after local indigenous leader and activist William Cooper ... Residents who live in Mr Cooper's former house, nominated the name.

Yorta Yorta descendent Mr Cooper, who lived in Footscray during the mid- to late-1930s, pursued justice for Aborgines and helped organise a National Day of Mourning for Indigenous Australians.

Anthea Cannon Maribyrnong Leader 20th May 2010


Click to enlarge

Source:Maribyrnong Leader

Footscray Station bridge has been named after local indigenous leader and activist William Cooper.

Residents Anthony Bella and Christine Newman, who live in Mr Cooper's former house, nominated the name in the recent competition.

Yorta Yorta descendent Mr Cooper, who lived in Footscray during the mid- to late-1930s, pursued justice for Aborgines and helped organise a National Day of Mourning for Indigenous Australians.

"He played an important part in Australia's Aboriginal history and it is fitting to pay tribute to his legacy in this way," Planning Minister Justin Madden said at the christening of the footbridge today.

The name William Cooper Bridge will now be referred to Maribyrnong Council to be formally approved.


Text: Wikipedia - Images: ABC 'Awaye!'

William Cooper 1861 - 1941


William Cooper 1861 - 1941

Born in Yorta Yorta territory around the intersection of the Murray and Goulburn Rivers in Victoria, Australia, he was forced to work for a variety of pastoral employers. He attended adult literacy classes and read widely, learning of the indigenous rights movements in North America and New Zealand.

Campaign for Aboriginal Rights
He helped establish the Australian Aborigines League and, as its secretary, circulated a petition seeking direct representation in parliament, enfranchisement and land rights. He collected 1814 signatures despite active obstruction from the national and state governments of the day. In 1935, he led the first aboriginal deputation to a Commonwealth minister and in 1938, the first deputation to the prime minister. The government of the day rejected his requests.
William Cooper continued protesting the injustice of the Australian treatment of its indigenous people right up until his death in 1941. His major success was the establishment of a National Aborigines Day, first celebrated in 1940.

Australian Aboriginal LeagueClick to enlarge
The grave of William Cooper, Cummeragunga, the former mission station on the banks of the Murray River.
Photo: Jessica Noske-Turner
Source: ABC 'Awaye!'

Family
His daughter Amy Charles was the matron of the first Aboriginal hostel established in Melbourne in 1959. One of his sons, Lynch Cooper, was an athlete who won the 1928 Stawell Gift and the 1929 World Sprint.

Protest against Kristallnacht
On December 6, 1938, several weeks after Kristallnacht in Germany, Cooper led a delegation of the Australian Aboriginal League to the German Consulate in Melbourne to deliver a petition which condemned the "cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany."
On December 6, 2008, the 70th anniversary of the protest against Kristallnacht, Cooper's grandson, Alfred "Boydie" Turner, was presented with a certificate from the Israeli Ambassador stating that 70 Australian trees were to be planted in Israel in honor of William Cooper. The ceremony, held at the State Parliament in Melboure, was attended by several dozen members of the Yorta Yorta tribe as well as Victorian Premier John Brumby, Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, lawmakers, diplomats and Jewish leaders.

On April 28, 2009, five trees were planted at the Forest of the Martyrs near Jerusalem at a ceremony in Israel attended by Turner and about 12 members of William Coopers extended family as well as a number of Jewish leaders. On the same day, a ceremony at the Aborigines Advancement League in Melbourne was held to honor Cooper's "brave stance against the oppression of the Jews."

Source: Wikipedia



Aboriginal campaigner took up a faraway fight for the oppressed

Carolyn Webb The Age November 8, 2008

Click to enlarge
One of William Cooper's letters to the then Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons after the petition to the King

Extra Large copy of letter

In 1938, William Cooper was 77 years old. No one would have begrudged the Australian Aborigines' League founder, a lifelong indigenous rights campaigner, if he had put his feet up and retired.

But a new, non-Aboriginal cause spurred an angry Mr Cooper into action.

Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or Night of the Broken Glass, when Nazis went on a rampage through Jewish communities in Germany and Austria.

In two days, November 9 and 10, 1938, 91 Jews were murdered and 30,000 deported to concentration camps. Hundreds of synagogues and homes were burnt down and stores were looted.

Officially, according to the Yad Vashem International School for Holocaust Studies, Kristallnacht was launched in retaliation for the assassination on November 7 of Ernst vom Rath, a German embassy official in Paris, by a young Jewish refugee named Herschel Grynszpan, but the Nazis used it to institute more severe anti-Jewish measures.

The director of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Geoffrey Zygier, said few people overseas bothered to protest the atrocity.

But William Cooper did, in a small but powerful way. On December 6, 1938, he led a delegation of Aborigines who walked from his Footscray home to the German consulate in Albert Road, South Melbourne.

The Argus newspaper reported the next day: "A deputation from the Australian Aborigines' League, which visited the German consulate yesterday, with the intention of conveying to the consul (Dr R.W. Drechsler) a resolution condemning the persecution of Jews and Christians in Germany, was refused admittance.

Newspaper article - Kristallnacht, 1938Click to enlarge
A newspaper article about William Cooper's letter of protest to the German consul in Melbourne on their objections to the persecution of the Jews on the 'Night of Broken Glass', or Kristallnacht, published on December 3, 1938

"The resolution voiced, 'on behalf of the Aborigines of Australia, a strong protest at the cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government of Germany, and asks that this persecution be brought to an end'."

On December 2 at state Parliament House, the Israeli ambassador to Australia, Yuval Rotem, will present Mr Cooper's grandson, Boydie Turner, with a certificate stating that 70 Australian trees will be planted at the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance centre in Jerusalem in Mr Cooper's honour.

Premier John Brumby will speak and Mr Zygier's sister-in-law, singer Deborah Conway, will perform with an Aboriginal artist.

Mr Zygier said it was remarkable that a man still fighting for basic rights for indigenous Australians, such as citizenship, the vote, and health care made time and had compassion for another suffering group.

Great-grandson Kevin Russell said it was sad that William Cooper was not well known and feted by the wider mainstream Australian community.

Australian Aboriginal LeagueClick to enlarge
Australian Aboriginal League
William Cooper (centre) with the founding members of the Australian Aborigines League at the opening in Northcote, around 1934. Other prominent members of the league included William Cooper's nephew and fellow Cummeragunga exile Doug Nicholls, as well as Shadrack James and Marge Tucker.

Image: Koori Heritage Trust

"He was a fighter, he was a leader, he was a visionary, and the Jewish community acknowledge what he was, who he was, what he stood for."

The Jewish and Aboriginal communities have forged strong ties. In 1985, Jewish businessmen Ron Merkel and Ron Castan helped Koori leader Jim Berg form the Koori Heritage Trust.

The Gandel and Pratt families helped build the trust's King Street headquarters and funded history and education programs.

Mr Zygier described a "remarkable synergy" between the two groups. "The Jewish community is an ancient and oppressed people, as the Aborigines are; we were the indigenous people of the land of Israel who were kicked out of our land 2000 years ago."





Comments

!!!

Mr Zygier described a "remarkable synergy" between the two groups.
"The Jewish community is an ancient and oppressed people, as the
Aborigines are; we were the indigenous people of the land of Israel who
were kicked out of our land 2000 years ago.

Interesting that Zygier does not see the "remarkable synergy" between the Indigenous people of Australia and the Palestinian people. its upsetting that although a people such as the Jews have been through so much inhumanaity, they can inflict a similar pain on to another person without acknowledging it.

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