Last week, radio national had a program about William Cooper – the Yorta Yorta elder who was one of the few people in Australia, and indeed the world, who protested against fascism, the rise of Nazism and the persecution of the Jewish people in Europe in 1938. That year, during the aftermath of Kristallnacht, Cooper delivered a letter of protest to the German consulate in Melbourne.
“One Blood: The Story of William Cooper” is available to hear online and download on the radio national website.
What I find so moving, and inspiring about this act of Cooper’s is that it shows a commitment to human rights, and humanity that extends beyond his own people who, at that time, were themselves stripped of their rights and persecuted on their own lands. In 1937, only a year prior, Cooper sent a petition to the Prime Minister, Jospeh Lyons, in the hope that he would forward it to the King. The petition read:
“Dear Mr. Lyons, … I am forwarding you the petition, signed by 1814 people of the Aboriginal race, praying His Majesty the King to exercise the Royal Prerogative by intervening for the preservation of our race from extinction and to grant representation to our race in the Federal Parliament.
In requesting that you forward the petition to His Majesty…” ³
Lyons never forwarded on the petition, but the move lead to Cooper establishing the first “Day of Mourning” on 26 January 1938.
Cooper is such a stirring and admirable example of solidarity. And it’s a powerful reminder that Jewish people in Australia have, I would think, a deep obligation to return this solidarity by speaking out against the ongoing discrimination towards Indigenous Australians.
Thanks so much to LN for sending me the link to this!