Saturday, February 20, 2010


From Wednesday's Australian:

Dear Editor,

L.Leroux's letter in response to Noel Pearson's article comparing Aboriginal culture to Jewish culture makes some interesting points (Letters,16.02.2010). Historically there have been close ties between the Aboriginal community and the Jewish community in Australia, with many Jewish Australians figuring prominently in Aboriginal campaigns for citizenship rights and Land Rights.

A inspirational example of this relationship is highlighted in the story of William Cooper. Cooper, of Yorta Yorta descent, spent most of his life in the Cummeragunja community in NSW and was a prominent leader in his community's struggle for land rights. Later he settled in Victoria. On December 6, 1938, Cooper and the Aboriginal Advancement League, appalled at the horrendous Nazi attack on the German Jewish Community on Kristallnacht ('The night of the broken glass') on 9-10 November, 1938 protested to the German Consulate in Melbourne against the Nazis' treatment of the German Jewish community. This is the only such recorded protest at that time. The Aboriginal protest led by William Cooper is not widely known in the general community, but the Australian Jewish community remember and honour this wonderful act of moral courage, solidarity and humanity. A commemorative plaque has a prominent place in the Jewish Holocaust Museum, Melbourne, and trees have been planted in the Martyr's Forest near Jerusalem to honour Cooper and his fellow Aboriginal leaders. Noel Pearson has highlighted some differences between Jewish culture and Aboriginal culture but we should also be aware that these two proud and ancient peoples also share a great deal and have enjoyed a long and often close and mutually supportive relationship.

Dr Bill Anderson,
Consultant Historian,
Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre

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