A university in Victoria has announced a new scholarship that celebrates the activism of Aboriginal and Jewish communities by honouring the life of Yorta Yorta leader William Cooper.
On 6 December 1938, Mr Cooper, aged 77, led a march from his home in Melbourne’s inner western suburbs to the steps of the city’s German consulate.
It was a protest against Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” in which Nazis terrorised Jews throughout Germany less than a month earlier.
The demonstration is generally considered the world's first protest of its kind against the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews. Little known at the time, the march has become a celebrated historical event and a symbol of solidarity in recent years.
Mr Cooper was also a key figure in the establishment of the Australian Aborigines League, a political organisation formed in Victoria in 1936. He also played a leading role in the January 26, 1938 Day of Mourning protest for the recognition of Aboriginal rights and representation in federal parliament.
More recently, the Australian Electoral Commission "unanimously agreed' to rename Victoria’s federal division of Batman in his honour.
The new William Cooper Indigenous Scholarship Fund will provide two students each year with comprehensive financial support during their studies at Monash University.
The new scholarship was made possible by a $1 million donation from John Gandel AC and Pauline Gandel. Mr and Mrs Gandel are well-known business leaders and philanthropists, and recently also became patrons of Monash University’s landmark Change It For good philanthropy campaign.
“William Cooper’s legacy deserves to be remembered and celebrated, and to inspire today’s generations of future leaders within the Indigenous community,” Mrs Gandel said in a statement.
“We’re delighted to be able to support a new generation of change agents ..., and look forward to seeing how they shape not only their own future, but the future of the community more broadly.”
Jacinta Elston, pro-vice chancellor (Indigenous) at Monash University, said the scholarship would ensure William Cooper’s advocacy and activism lived on through future generations of Indigenous students.
“The funding will support these students throughout their higher education and hopefully enable them to go on to be change makers for their own communities, as well as globally, ensuring Indigenous voices and perspectives are active in helping find solutions to the problems faced by communities around the world,” she said.