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William Cooper

Ngapa William Cooper 

Adelaide Festival
09 March 2023
For anyone who encountered Compassion, the profoundly moving and beautiful song cycle by Lior and Nigel Westlake from a decade ago, the prospect of hearing another work from them was always going to arouse interest. Would their newest collaboration rise to the same magical level as their first, or perhaps even surpass it? Would it be entirely different? ... (read more)

As momentum builds for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, it is timely to reflect on the career of William Cooper. A Yorta Yorta elder and founding secretary of the Australian Aborigines’ League, Cooper gathered support for Indigenous representation in parliament and for voting and land rights during the interwar years. Historian Bain Attwood’s new book tells Cooper’s story but resists the biographical impulse that would separate the man from his social milieux. In today’s episode, Professor Emerita Penny Russell reads her review of Attwood’s portrait of this remarkable man, whose eloquence has left only a scant textual record. What survives reveals a figure ‘always driven by a profound vision of justice and moral uplift’.

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The name of Yorta Yorta elder William Cooper shines bright in the history of Aboriginal activism in Australia between the two world wars. It is linked with the formation of the Australian Aborigines’ League, of which he was the founding secretary; the Day of Mourning on the anniversary of white settlement in 1938; and a petition intended for George V, signed by almost 2,000 Aboriginal people and demanding Aboriginal representation in parliament. This last was perhaps Cooper’s most cherished project. He spent years gathering signatures and waiting for the most opportune moment to present it; his disappointment at the indifferent response of the Australian government darkened his final years.

... (read more)