Honouring our heroes

By Shepparton News

The region has much to celebrate this NAIDOC Week.

Not one, but there are two of our First Australian heroes who have recently been celebrated with the naming of a federal electorate in their honour.

The seat of Batman will be renamed after William Cooper and our own electorate of Murray will be renamed after Sir Douglas Nicholls.

It is fitting that the Greater Shepparton region, with one of Victoria’s largest indigenous populations, also be the region from which such fine gentlemen hailed.

Sir Douglas Nicholls was an extraordinary figure and much has been written about his exploits in the pages of this publication.

However, it is Mr Cooper we would like to focus on today, primarily because he was the founder of NAIDOC Week.

Originally known as Aborigines Sunday, the day was founded in 1940 during a dark time for many First Australians.

They were not allowed to vote. Though many served Australia in war, on returning they were not granted settlements of land as white soldiers were, a fact on which the Lovett family of Gunditjmara country still campaign.

Abuse at the hands of the authorities was a regular occurrence, including the mass theft of children known today as the ‘‘stolen generation’’.

These abuses left a lasting legacy.

But there are also many signs of reconciliation, healing and achievement, not least of which are a long list of issues on which Mr Cooper campaigned, but never lived to see realised. Fortunately, his descendants have.