Remembering the Apology – Today is the 6th Anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations


“We cannot move forward until the legacies of the past are properly dealt with. This means acknowledging the truth of history, providing justice and allowing the process of healing to occur.

We are not just talking here of the brutality of a time gone by – though that was certainly a shameful reality. We are talking of the present, of the ways in which the legacy of the past lives on for every single Aboriginal person and their families.

It is time for non-Indigenous Australians to turn their reflective gaze inwards. It is time to look at non-Indigenous privilege – and to ask the question: ‘What was the cost of this advantage – and who paid the price?’

As former Governor-General, Sir William Deane, said in 1996: ‘Where there is no room for national pride or national shame about the past, there can be no national soul.’

…Only by understanding the truth of our past can we find a way to go forward. For the past permeates the present. The past shapes the present. The past is not past.

…Encouraging reflection on the past is not intended to promote a wallowing in guilt. Guilt is a very unproductive emotion. Guilt cannot prise itself away from the past. Guilt is stagnant. It inhibits optimism and it inhibits action.

There is an important distinction between shame and guilt. As a nation we can feel collective shame and collective sorrow, and we can take collective responsibility for our nation’s past.”

Professor Lowitja O’Donoghue AC CBE
Patron, Reconciliation South Australia
30 November 2007

Stolen Generations

2013 Australia – Significant Aboriginal Dates in Aboriginal History

Sunday 1st December 2013

Today is the 36th Anniversary of the term of Sir Douglas Nicholls as Australia’s First Aboriginal Governor


Sir Douglas Nicholls (Pastor)

“Aboriginal People are the skeleton in the cupboard of Australia’s national life …. outcasts in our own land.”
… Doug Nicholls, National Day of Mourning speech, 1938.

“All we want is to be able to think and do the same things as white people, while still retaining our identity as a people.” … … Doug Nicholls

Sir Douglas Nicholls (Pastor) was born on December 9, 1906 on the Cumeroogunja mission in NSW. His mother worked as a domestic helper and his father as a farm hand. However, unemployment was a regular occurrence. Schooling was provided to grade 3 standard and strict religious principles were emphasised. As a supplement to government rations, Doug and the other mission children would collect tiger, brown and copperhead snakes for sideshows organisers, who would pay them 1 shilling (10 cents) per snake.

When he was eight, he saw his 16 year old sister Hilda forcibly taken from his family by the police. The Government had decided she would be sent to the Cootamundra Training Home for Girls. His mother, Florence, threw herself into the car and refused to get out. The police drove her 20 kms from the mission and dumped her on the roadway, making her walk back to the mission, heartbroken. This brutal invasion of his family by the authorities left Doug with a deep fear of the police.

At 13 he worked with his uncle as a tar boy and general hand on sheepstations, and he lived with the shearers. He worked hard and had a cheerful disposition. This annoyed one of the shearers so much that he challenged Doug to a fight, with the loser to hand over one weeks pay (30 shillings – $3). After six rounds the shearer who challenged him conceded defeat.


He was a natural athlete and played Aussie rules football. During one match, a Carlton football talent scout encouraged Doug to shift to Melbourne and try out for the Victorian Football League to play for Carlton. Club officials allowed him to train but the players didn’t want an Aboriginal playing on the team. He overheard some of the players saying he smelled. He left Carlton and joined the struggling Northcote team. Players were given 10 to 15 shillings per game. In 1927 he played before a crowd of 9000 people and was a huge success. The club paid him a 2 pound ($4) bonus for the match. He played for the club for 5 years and was a member of their 1929 premiership team. In 1932 Doug joined Fitzroy where he remained until on-going problems with a knee injury forced him to retire in 1939. In 1940 he was back at Northcote as a non-playing coach. In 1935 he was the first Aboriginal player to be selected to play for the Victorian Inter-state Team.

Playing football provided Doug with employment during the winter months but during summer he had to find an alternative income. This is he did by joining Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Troupe, a travelling sideshow in which Sharman offered his fighters for challenge against all comers. Boxers were paid up to one hundred pounds a day ($200) and challengers were offered five pounds ($10) if they could last four rounds with one of his fighters. He also made money in running races and in 1928 won the Waracknabeal Gift netting him a sash, cutlery valued at 21 pounds ($42) and a 100 pound cheque. Following this race organisers paid him a 10 pounds appearance fee, board and expenses just for entering races, such was his popularity with the fans.

His mother died and Doug’s interest in religion was rekindled. In 1935 he was conducting church and hymn services as a lay preacher at the Gore St. Mission Centre in Fitzroy. In 1941 he received his call-up notice and he joined the 29th Battalion. In 1942, at the request of the Fitzroy police, Doug was released from his unit to assist with problems in the Fitzroy Aboriginal community. This commenced his career as a social worker. He cared for those who were trapped in their alcohol abuse, gambling and other social problems. He helped those who were in trouble with the police. Indigenous people gathered to him and eventually the group was so large that he became the pastor of the first Aboriginal Church of Christ in Australia. He was only paid one pound per week and so he had to do other work to support himself.

People began to approach him about the plight of his people throughout the country. In 1957 he became a field officer for the Aboriginal Advancement League. He edited the AAL’s journal Smoke Signals, and helped draw Aboriginal issues to the attention of Government officials and the general public. He pleaded for dignity for Aboriginal people as human beings. Support for the AAL grew rapidily. In this same year he was awarded a Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.). He helped set up hostels for Aboriginal children, holiday homes for his people at Queenscliff and was a founding member and Victorian Secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI).

In 1962 he was chosen by the Father’s day Council of Australia as Victoria’s Father of the Year. The award was given for “outstanding leadership in youth and welfare work and for the inspired example he set the community in his unfailing efforts to further the cause of the Australian Aborigine”. In 1968 he received an Order of the British Empire award (O.B.E.) and in the same year became a member of the new Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria. He was inaugural chairman of the National Aboriginal Sports Foundation. He met the Pope at the Ecumenical Conference held in Melbourne and was among Victoria’s invited guests to greet the Queen on her 1970 visit to Australia.

In 1972 he became the first Aboriginal person to be knighted and he and his wife Gladys travelled to London to receive that honour. Then on December 1, 1976, Sir Doug Nicholls was appointed as the 28th Governor of South Australia.

In 1977 he suffered a severe stroke and he was forced to retire. He did not regain good health and was often in and out of hospitals. He died in 1988 after another stroke. A State Funeral was held for him and he was buried in the cemetery at Cumeroogunja, the place were he was born.


  • 1957 – appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
  • 1962 – chosen by the Father’s Day Council of Australia as Victoria’s Father of the Year for “outstanding leadership in youth and welfare work and for the inspired example he set the community in his unfailing efforts to further the cause of the Australian Aborigine”.
  • 1968 – promoted to Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
  • 1968 – met Pope Paul VI at the Ecumenical Conference held in Melbourne.
  • 1970 – among Victorians invited guests to greet Queen Elizabeth II on her visit to Australia.
  • 1972 – became the first Aboriginal person to be knighted (Knight Bachelor) and he and his wife Gladys travelled to London to receive that honour.
  • 1973 – appointed King of Moomba.
  • 1976 – appointed the 28th Governor of South Australia, the first Aboriginal person appointed to vice-regal office.
  • 1977 – appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO)
  • 1991 – the Canberra suburb of Nicholls was named after him
  • the new chapel of Northern Community Church of Christ in Preston is named after him.
  • 2006 – to commemorate the centenary of his birth, a statue of Nicholls, one-and-a-half times life size, was approved for the Parliament Gardens, beside the Parliament of Victoria; it was officially opened in December 2007 and was the first statue of an Aboriginal erected in Victoria.
Sir Douglas Nicholls
Douglas nicholls.jpg
28th Governor of South Australia
In office
1 December 1976 – 30 April 1977
Monarch Queen Elizabeth II
Preceded by Sir Mark Oliphant
Succeeded by Sir Keith Seaman
Personal details
Born 9 December 1906
Cummeragunja ReserveNew South Wales
Died 4 June 1988 (aged 81)
Nationality Australia Australian
Profession Athlete and Pastor
Religion Church of Christ

Further Reading

  1. Howstuffworks “Nicholls, Sir Douglas – Encyclopedia Entry”
  2. Clark, Mavis Thorpe (1956). Pastor Doug: The Story of Sir Douglas Nicholls Aboriginal Leader (Rev. ed.). Melbourne: Lansdowne Press. SBN 8018-0017-8.
  3. Mansell, Ken (17 June 2003). “Haydn Bunton – legend and myth”. Archived from the original on 26 July 2008.
  4. Australian War Memorial website
  5. “ABORIGINE FOR CORONATION?.”Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953) (Vic.: National Library of Australia). 16 April 1953. p. 4 Edition: MIDDAY.
  6. Biographies of Doug and Gladys Nicholls, Council of Melbourne
  7. “Bloodlines: The Nicholls Family”.
  8. It’s an Honour: Knight Bachelor
  9. Craig Bellamy, Gordon Chisholm, Hilary Eriksen (17 Feb 2006) Moomba: A festival for the people.:
  10. It’s an Honour: KCVO
  11. Memorial for Pastor Sir Doug and Lady Nicholls, submission by Assets and Services Division, Council of Melbourne, 16 May 2006
  12. City of Melbourne – Walks and tours – Sir Douglas and Lady Gladys Nicholls Memorial, City of Melbourne

2013 Australia – Significant Aboriginal Dates in Aboriginal History

Tuesday 11th June 2013

On this day in 1988 the Barunga Statement was presented to Prime Minister Bob Hawke

AIATSIS Collection Barunga

Barunga Statement
In the 1870’s pastoralists and telegraph line construction crews followed the explorers; tin mining began in 1913 and continued until 1946. The Darwin – Mataranka railway was completed in 1928. During the war Katherine became a major army base, and many people moved in from all over the NT to work as labourers or drovers. After the war a ration station opened at Maranboy, but water shortages forced its removal first to the King River, and then east to Tandangal in 1948. The people were reluctant to settle at Tandangal because it was a sacred site, and so in 1951 the station was relocated again, on the Beswick Creek, an area rich in rock art. The settlement, known as Beswick Creek, was renamed Bamyili in 1965 and Barunga in 1984.

The people won freehold title to the 100ha former government station which is managed by Bamyili Community Council Inc. The community hosts the annual Barunga cultural and sporting festival. A statement of national Aboriginal political objectives issued to the federal government in June 1988 became known as the ‘Barunga Statement’. Written on bark and presented to Prime Minister RJL Hawke at that year’s festival, it called for Aboriginal self-management, a national system of land rights, compensation for loss of lands, respect for Aboriginal identity, an end to discrimination, and the granting of full civil, economic, social and cultural rights. The Prime Minister responded by saying that he wished to conclude a treaty between Aboriginal and other Australians by 1990, but his wish was not fulfilled.

– Text by Dr Ian Howie-Willis from the Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia

2013 Australia – Significant Aboriginal Dates in Aboriginal History

Tuesday 11th June 2013

On this day in 2000 over 55,000 people Walked for Reconciliation across the bridge over the River Torrens in the heart of Adelaide. 

Article by John Bond in People Building Peace

Reconciliation Australia Bridge Walk Fact Sheet



2013 Australia – Significant Aboriginal Dates in Aboriginal History

Tuesday 4th June 2013

On this day in 2000 over 60,000 people walked across the William Jolly Bridge in Brisbane in support for Aboriginal peoples and Reconciliation

Reconciliation Australia Bridge Walk Fact Sheet

people walking across a bridge

Reconciliation March across Brisbane’s William Jolly Bridge,
4 June 2000. Photo © Ed Parker.