‘Start wobbling your tongue’

A fitting tribute to an Aboriginal activist
The ABR Podcast 16 December 2021

‘Start wobbling your tongue’

A fitting tribute to an Aboriginal activist
The ABR Podcast 16 December 2021

William Cooper


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’.

Penny Russell is a historian of families, intimacy, and social encounters in nineteenth-century Australia, with a longstanding interest in the intricacies of gender, class, race, and culture in colonial societies. Penny is a Professor Emerita at The University of Sydney.


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