Looking at History
Darwin High School Year 10 History students have been looking at the struggle for rights and freedoms in the twentieth century, with a focus on the Indigenous civil rights movement in Australia.
By teacher Judy Boland
A particular focus has been on the role of individuals and key symbolic movements that have become iconic. The class chose to focus on sports people and how they brought about change and society’s attitude towards successful Indigenous sportsmen and women.
In a visit facilitated by AIEW Mrs Barbara Tapsell, the class heard first hand from Reuben Cooper’s (Senior) grand-daughter, Mrs Joy Cardona, of the efforts undertaken by her grandfather to bring about change for Indigenous people in the Top End.
Reuben played a leading role in fighting racism in the NT. He was an outstanding sportsman who was named in the NTFL Team of the Century, and was the first inductee into the NT AFL Hall of Fame.
Cooper is acknowledged as one of the founders of Australian Rules Football in Darwin and perhaps the Territory’s finest player before the Second World War.
He faced difficulties as the product of a mixed-race marriage and experienced racism in the football code in the late 1920s when coloured people were not allowed to play against whites.
Partly as a result of this and his role as an employer operating sawmills which employed Aboriginals, Reuben became an important activist for Aboriginal rights in the 1930s, and might well have continued this activism if not for his premature death in 1942.
At the end of the talk, Trae Buckland thanked Mrs Cardona on behalf of the class.