Not one but two Yorta Yorta men from the region have now been commemorated with the renaming of a federal electorate in their honour, following the Australian Electoral Commissions decision to rename the seat of Murray to Nicholls.
The honouring of Sir Doug Nicholls follows a similar honour bestowed on William Cooper when the Melbourne inner-city Electorate of Batman was changed to the Electorate of Cooper for the next Federal election.
The new Electorate of Nicholls encompasses much of the local region and is currently held by the Nationals’ Damian Drum.
“It is great to see a Federal Electorate being named after one of our local heroes, who made such a big difference to our nation,” Mr Drum said.
“Sir Doug Nicholls has been described to me as Australias very own Martin Luther King, he paved the way for Indigenous Australians in sport, religion, politics and the all-round community.
“Sir Doug was a key figure for the yes vote in 1967 referendum to recognise Indigenous Australians as citizens. He and his wife Gladys accomplished many great achievements throughout their lives and they are both very deserving of this recognition.”
The renaming includes several changes to electoral boundaries.
Loddon Shire will become a part of the Mallee electoral division, voters in Euroa and Violet Town shift to the Electorate of Indi currently held by independent Cathy McGowan and Seymour, Broadford and surrounding areas move into Nicholls.
“Everyone who lives in the Campaspe Shire, the City of Greater Shepparton and the Moira Shire will vote in the re-named electorate of Nicholls at the next election,” Mr Drum said.
Sir Nicholls was born in 1906 on the Cummeragunja Reserve in New South Wales. A talented footballer, he played for Tongala before moving onto the VFL to play for the Carlton seconds and later six seasons with Fitzroy, almost winning a Brownlow Medal in 1934. In 1935 he was the first Aboriginal man to be chosen for the Victorian interstate team.
A career in religion and social work followed where Sir Nicholls gained the trust and confidence of authorities ministering to Aboriginal people in Fitzroy and Mooroopna.
A host of awards and honours were bestowed on him including a knighthood, meetings with Pope Paul VI and Queen Elisabeth II.
In 1976 he was appointed the Governor of South Australia, the first Aboriginal person appointed to vice-regal office.
He passed away in Mooroopna in 1988.
The naming of a Federal Electorate after Nicholls comes on the back of other recognitions including the naming of a Canberra suburb and a statue on the grounds of the Victorian parliament.