Life story

A Story of Indigenous Life: William Cooper Fought for the Rights of First Nations Peoples | Canberra weather

books, lifestyle, william cooper, first nations fighter, yorta yorta, attwood bath

The strength of research and writing in the vital area of ​​Aboriginal history, drawn largely from academia, continues to impress and impress serious readers of Australian history. I described the recent book by Henry Reynolds and Nick Clements, reviewed in these pages a few weeks ago, as a masterpiece. This book is also in this class, although of a very different nature. Where Reynolds and Clements wrote about war and heroic Native fighters, Bain Attwood speaks of a hero in a different time and context. His book, too, is ultimately as sad as it is edifying. Again, the lack of sources would suffocate a writer of less ingenuity and skill. This story cannot be told, historians of the past would have said – the sources just are not there. To carry out the vital work of acquainting readers with the true nobility, accomplishment and perseverance of figures central to Indigenous history, historians of the caliber of these writers need long years of research, testing, reflection and redefinition of approaches. Bringing imagination, empathy, and critical thinking to the task, they satisfy the most skeptical reader of the likely truth of the story they are telling. William Cooper grew up around the Murray River area, northeast of Victoria and southern New South Wales. Living on two separate reserves during his long apprenticeship in knowledge and leadership, he came under the strong influence of Christian missionaries. Cooper developed a religious faith and certainty that would be his guide for the rest of his long life. He read the Bible diligently, enjoyed the fellowship of the Christian communities in which he participated, and enjoyed singing the gospel and hymns with great pleasure. He also had a blind understanding of the injustices done to his race from the earliest days of the European invasion. With an unwavering faith in British justice and decency, and with his strong religious convictions, Cooper has spent many years appealing to authorities, on reservations, parliament and government to ensure that his people deserve compensation, dignity, land. and opportunities. A man with little education, but aided by those who could see the strength of his arguments and positions, he petitioned, wrote, campaigned and spoke with strength and passion for change. Most readers will find it heartbreaking that his letters, arguments, and passion are generally ignored. With considerable innocence and, as it turned out, misplaced faith, William Cooper decided to ask King George V for help in righting the wrongs suffered by his people. According to Bain Attwood, it is suggested that Archbishop Mannix of Melbourne could have helped Cooper draft the petition. Cooper was fighting, after all, for the rights of minorities that Mannix could have been most sympathetic to. The petition, once drafted, was widely disseminated among the indigenous peoples of the states and territories. The work of securing signatures was long and difficult, but Cooper and his assistants persevered, believing that, like the King, originally, enjoined those who obeyed and revered him to live in peace and friendship with the first Australians, his successor, now king, would like to implement the initial determination. It was signed by over 2,000 people, but Cooper was unable to ship it himself. He sent it to the Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons, for transmission to the King. The government had no intention of allowing this to happen. Bain Attwood speculates that ultimately he was dumped. It took many years for William Cooper to figure out that this was the fate of his, you might say, fantasy. This little story illustrates the sadness of this book. Attwood describes so many other actions like this, all of them futile. But there is so much more to this story than failure. William Cooper was a man of great dignity, both physically and mentally. In many illustrations in the book, the reader never sees Cooper except formally dressed, standing with an almost regal demeanor. His faith in the God he had learned in his infancy and childhood never wavered. His faith in the kindness and decency of the people he worked with and for whom he worked, never wavered either. There was a tragedy in Cooper’s long life. He buried two women and saw too many of those he loved die. His eldest son, Daniel, was killed in Ypres during the Great War. With dignity, William Cooper wrote to Home Secretary John McEwen in 1939: “I am the father of a soldier who gave his life for his king on the battlefield. By recalling this handsome Australian, Bain Attwood has done his nation a service. The research is prodigious, the argument clearly presented, engaging and with ruthless logic. Readers will see the Australian tragedy in a clear and compelling way. They will learn to love and admire this tireless fighter.



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