NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chair Roy Ah-See today appealed to young Aboriginal people to take inspiration from the leaders of the 1938 Day of Mourning.
Speaking at the anniversary of the event in Sydney today, Cr Ah-See said the Day of Mourning was a turning point in political advocacy for Aboriginal people in Australia.
“On January 26, 1938, Jack Patten, William Ferguson and William Cooper laid an important foundation that would inform the way we fought for our civil rights and Land Rights," he said.
“The Day of Mourning challenged the so-called celebration of Australia Day and drew attention to 150 years of misery and discrimination endured by Aboriginal people.
“In addition to mourning the loss of our country and our freedom, the leaders of the Day of Mourning issued a manifesto for a new deal based on self-determination and equality."
In the days following the Day of Mourning, Jack Patten led a delegation of 20 Aboriginal men and women who met with Prime Minister Joseph Lyons. The delegation recommended the Commonwealth assume responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs, a request that would take 30 years to materialise.
Cr Ah-See said the leadership and vision of Jack Patten, William Ferguson and William Cooper created a platform for the Freedom Riders as well as the Land Rights legends in New South Wales who fought for and secured the best Land Rights system in Australia.He said the courage and determination of those who created the Day of Mourning, which led to NAIDOC, must not be forgotten.
“Last year we had the opportunity to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Ride," he said.
“Let’s make it our responsibility to ensure the significance of the Day of Mourning inspires us to fight for that new deal – for justice, not charity, for Australia to be proud of Aboriginal culture and for self-determination for Aboriginal people.”