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Sir Doug Nicholls
By Paige Patterson
The history of Australia’s indigenous people is a cruel and bitter one,
but not one to be forgotten. Through many struggles the Indigenous
people have stood resilient and fought for their rights and freedoms.
Doug Nicholls is one of those Indigenous people who fought for
Indigenous rights and equality.
Paragraph 1
Douglas Ralph Nicholls was an aboriginal man who in his life, took on
many rolls including footballer, pastor, activist and governor. He was
significant in gaining indigenous rights. Doug was born on the 9th of
December 1906 at Cummeragunja Aboriginal mission, New South Wales
to Herbert Nicholls and Florence, née Atkinson. He was given primary
education from Thomas Shadrach James. In 1915 his older sister Hilda
was ‘stolen’. When he was 14, he went to seek work under the
aborigines protection act. He took a job, but dreamed of better. Like
many children Doug played Australian Rules football, but he was
particularity good. He signed with Northcote Victorian Football
Association team. His next endeavour was boxing. In 1931 Nicholls
accepted a three-year contract with Jimmy Sharman’s travelling boxing
show. Doug was a better footballer than he was a boxer so in 1932 he
signed with Fitzroy Football team. He played fifty-four games for
Fitzroy and six seasons until a knee injury made him stop in 1937.
Paragraph 2
Douglas also became a leader to many during his lifetime. William Cooper was the
founder of the Australian Aborigines’ League and he had a huge impact on Doug’s
life. He encouraged him in many of his endeavours and Doug began following in
Cooper’s footsteps. In February 1935 Cooper, Nicholls and other people lobbied
to Thomas Paterson, the Commonwealth minister for the interior, about the
need for Federal control of Aboriginal affairs. Nicholls began taking a stand for
aboriginal rights. Other things he participated in included the Day of Mourning
protest for Aborigines taking place in Sydney on 26 January 1938 and when
Cooper retired in 1940 Douglas became sectary of the AAL. Nicholls spent a brief
time as a soldier in the Citizen Military Force. Doug’s next endeavour was
working in welfare and religious services. In January 1943 he started ‘Aboriginal
Sunday’ which later became National Aborigines and Islanders Day. Douglas
conducted vigorous ministry from a chapel in Gore Street, in Fitzroy, which
branched off to many future ventures. Doug used preaching and protesting to
grab attention from people and make them aware of what was going on. In
1957 the former Victorian Aboriginal Protection Board became the Aborigines’
Welfare Board and he was appointed as an aboriginal representive. In May 1957
Nicholls formed the Victorian Aborigines Advancement League and the league used
film to make awareness of the issues. On 1 December 1976 Sir Douglas was
appointed Governor of South Australia, a huge achievement for an aboriginal man
at that time. He even met the queen during her royal tour in March 1977. And
these were only some of his achievements.
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Doug Nicholls and other Indigenous people have fought for equal
rights for a long time, these rights include access to medical
supplies, the right to keep their land, not to have their
children taken away, not to be treated like slaves and more
things that everyone should be allowed. The government policies
such as the White Australia policy have stated that Australia
should be a ‘white country’ and even though the Aboriginal
people were the original owners of the Australian land, it was
always the aim to get rid of this race. The indigenous people
were never seen as equals and it was a long battle for them to
gain equal rights. Many Indigenous leaders have led the long
battle for equality; these leaders include Doug Nicholls, William
Cooper, Jack Patten, and many more. They have dedicated
their lives to the fight and Australia should be eternally
grateful and proud.
Sir Douglas Nicholls died on 4 June 1988 at Mooroopna. But
during his life he achieved so much. He played a major part in the
fight for aboriginal rights. Douglas Nicholls grabbed the attention
of the people and made them aware of the troubles surrounding
the Indigenous people at that time. Without his contribution the
Indigenous people may not be where they are today. Sir Douglas
Nicholls is a truly inspirational person. And will always be
remembered not only the Indigenous race but by all Australians.
Picture 1
The Above Photo is from the website
This Image clearly shows how it was a huge achievement for Doug to get so
high up in football, he is the only Aboriginal man on the team, this put him in
the view of the public and helped him get the message out there to make
people aware of the issues going on within the Indigenous community.
Picture 2
This image shows Douglas meeting Queen
Elizabeth. This was a huge achievement for
an aboriginal man. He met her in March 1977
during the Silver Jubilee tour.
This image is from the website
Picture 3
The Above image was taken from the website
This Photograph shows Nicholls Preaching to the
people, he was an incredible leader and led many
people in the fight for indigenous equality.
Source 1
"You can play a tune on black keys, you can play a
tune on white keys, but both are needed for perfect
The above quote from Doug Nicholls represents how
Black and White people must work together to make
Australia great. The ‘Black keys’ represent the
aboriginal people and the ‘White keys’ represent the
white people. The quote was found on:
Source 2
"All we want is to be able to think and do the same things
as white people, while still retaining our identity as a
This particular quote puts down the White’s offer to the
Indigenous people that they can join society if they
assimilate into the ‘White’ way of life. He states that
they have the right to maintain their own culture as well
as to have equal rights as the other people in society. It
was found on:
Source 3
This image shows Doug
protesting for Aboriginal
rights. He walks proudly
with all the other
Indigenous people.
Without his participation
the gain of aboriginal
equality may have taken
even longer. This image
was taken from
The end
Thanks for reading!

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