On the missionary legacy in Australia

Matt Busby Andrews tells a story of Aboriginal flourishing.



Matt Busby Andrews tells a story of Aboriginal flourishing.


You know, I heard Stan Grant, the ABC journalist, talk about his own father the other day, that he kept two books by the side of his bed: the Bible and the Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Indigenous people of the early 20th century were in many ways passionate about education. So that Scholars’ Hut in Cummeragunja, taught and run by Thomas James, wasn’t just a place where Shakespeare was taught, but it was politics, it was the Westminster system, it was how to write a petition, it was the separation of powers. And through that place of learning, yes, William Cooper; Margaret Tucker setting up the Australian Aborigines League going into FAACATSI; through to Pastor Doug; the Onus brothers, some of the first successful Aboriginal enterprise and salespeople that really built up a commercial side to the Aboriginal justice movement.

All of these guys come through this one place and left a legacy that is still going today. Do you know, I met an Aboriginal man in the Victorian Government, a senior bureaucrat, and he said there are four Indigenous executive officers in Victoria. All four of them are Yorta Yorta. The Yorta Yorta were like that; they were no-one. You know, when Daniel Matthews was in Maloga, he thought he was seeing the last of these people. Actually he’s created this incredible legacy. The number of people in Victoria that claim to be Yorta Yorta or Bangerang – and I’m sure they are – they were the ones that everyone thought would just disappear, but they have flourished.