“Who would ever have thought that the grandson of Aboriginal rights campaigner William Cooper who tried to send a petition to King George V in 1938 would now be sending it to the King’s granddaughter Queen Elizabeth 11 in 2013, 75 years later. But that is exactly what Alf Turner (also known as Uncle Boydie) is doing” said Barbara Miller, part of a team helping him do it.
“Bipartisan support for the petition is rising” said Miller “with Opposition leader Tony Abbott signing it on the same day that the Journey to Recognition was launched at Federation Square in Melbourne. Education Minister Peter Garrett has also signed it as has Jeannette Powell, Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and former Australian Democrats Senator Aden Ridgeway and AFL legend Michael Long. There are currently over 80 signatures on it.”
“The reason the original petition, initiated in 1933, was not sent in 1938 is that Aboriginal people were British subjects but not Australian citizens, having lost their citizenship of their own nation in 1901 at federation” she said. “Also the federal government only had jurisdiction over the Northern Territory when it came to Aborigines. This is what started the campaign for the 1967 referendum so that Aborigines were counted in the census and the Commonwealth would be able to make laws for all Australian Aborigines.”
“The current constitutional campaign is for Indigenous people to be recognized not written out of the constitution and to remove racism” she said “and needs to be supported by all Australians of goodwill.”
Uncle Boydie wants to right this wrong of the petition not being passed on in 1938 and finish his grandfather’s business. William Cooper’s dream has now become “Uncle Boydie’s Dream” and this is the name of our project to help him do it.”
The petition by Yorta Yorta elder William Cooper on behalf of the Australian Aborigines League and from the ‘Aboriginal Inhabitants of Australia’ requested King George V’s intervention ‘to prevent the extinction of the Aboriginal Race’, to improve their conditions and give them a voice in federal parliament. The petition declares that by expropriating their land and denying them legal status, the British colonisers of Australia had failed to fulfil both their moral duty and the instructions they had been given by the British government to care for the original inhabitants of the land.
History was made in Canberra on Tuesday 21 May 2013 when Uncle Boydie launched the campaign to send Cooper’s 1938 petition to the Queen with its original wording and with a cover page written by Barbara Miller bringing it up to date. The event was held at the Northern Canberra Jewish Community Centre Chabad with Christians also attending.
Uncle Boydie was the first signatory on the Indigenous petition and Prof James Haire, Executive Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture and formerly Chairman of the National Council of Churches was the first signatory on the supporter’s petition.
A book signing of Miller’s book “William Cooper, Gentle Warrior: Standing Up for Australian Aborigines and Persecuted Jews” was used for fundraising for Uncle Boydie to travel to London to present the petition personally to the Queen if an audience can be obtained.
On December 6 last year, Uncle Boydie, joined by a large group of Jewish people, Aborigines, Christians and others re-enacted the famous walk of William Cooper and the Australian Aborigines League to the German Consulate in Melbourne on the 74th anniversary. Miller said “I initiated it by contacting Michael Pearce, Hon German Consulate of Melbourne to ask him to receive the letter of protest his predecessors had rejected and to do it on the location where the consulate was in 1938. He was happy to do so as he said he wanted to ‘right this wrong’ of history.”
Uncle Boydie sees this as half of Cooper’s dream completed. What remains is to gather 1814 signatures, the number on the original petition, gathered from Aborigines all over Australia and add a supporter’s petition and present it to the Queen or the Australian government.
Another important event that occurred on 21 May was that a group, including Uncle Boydie, was able to view the national archives copy of the original petition and related correspondence. “This threw further light on the fact that it was never even presented to Parliament, that the original petition and signatures are missing, that all that is there is the copy of the petition sent to government asking permission to get signatures and a letter stating that the petition with the signatures was received and cabinet papers as to why it was not presented to Parliament” said Miller.
The group hopes to have bipartisan support from the Australian parliament for a motion of regret that it was not considered by the parliament and not passed on to the King George VI in 1938 and that the Australian Parliament will this time support its being sent to the Queen.
Barbara Miller Ph 0466076020
On behalf of “Uncle Boydie’s Dream” Organising Team