Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sir Douglas Ralph "Doug" Nicholls KCVO, OBE

Over the past few days we have seen many images, and heard many debates rage over fallout of the Australia Day protests in Canberra and the subsequent flag burning. However we must not forget that those who commit such acts are a minority and that we must not allow them to overshadow the deeds of better men and women. So I wish to draw young fogey followers attention s to the life of Sir Douglas Nicholls KCVO, OBE a former Governor of the State of South Australia. Born in Cummeragunja on the 9th of December 1906 an area renowned for producing many fine athletes, he went to work as a shearers tar boy at the age of thirteen and laboured on various stations in the area. As a young man he was a champion sprinter winning the Nyah and Warracknabeal gifts and also boxing in the Jimmy Sharmans boxing troupe in sideshow alley. He later went on to be recruited to play for Carlton Football Club in the VFL but racist attitudes present at the time prevented an appearance. He subsequently joined Fitzroy Football Club where he played form 1932,  and in 1935 was to become the first aboriginal to be selected in the Victorian State side. In 1939 a knee injury forced his retirement from the club.
 Apart from his sporting achievements he become involved with the Church of Christ in 1935 and later went on to become a pastor within the Church. During the early years of world war two he was called up into the army but was quickly discharged at police request due to his mentoring and social work with aboriginal people in the Fitzroy area, during this time he was wedded to his late brothers wife Gladys and in their 39 years together had three children and raising his brothers three children. After the war years Douglas became even  more deeply involved in indigenous issues within his local and broader community and becoming a leader in the calls for reconcilliation between blacks and whites, and a Field Officer in the Aboriginal Advancement League, and the church where he was eventually ordained to the ministry. He also went on to to become a founding member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. In 1962  Douglas was named Victorias Father of the year on Fathers day and 1968 an Officer of the Order of the British Empire(MBE 1957) the year 1972 saw him bacome the first Aboriginal person ever to be knighted, receiving the honour of Knight Bachelor. On the 1st of December 1976 Sir Douglass was appointed to arguably his highest honour becoming the 28th Governor of South Australia but he was forced to retire on the 30th of April the following year due to ill health. As with Sir Douglas's knighthood he was the first Aboriginal to be appointed to such a prestigious office. In the year 1977 Her Majesty the Queen appointed him to be a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, and in 1991 the suburb of Nicholls was named after him in the nations capital in Canberra. He died on the fourth of June 1988 and was interred at the cemeterary in Cummeragunja.
It is not the place of the young fogey to lecture others on who should be their leaders, but as Australians we can all only hope that in the future men of Sir Douglas Nicholls calibre emerge once again to lead us and to become our role models or we risk seeing the images and debates that took place earlier this week repeated in our future.     

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