Thursday, 30 May 2013


                   BLACK          SOCIAL        HISTORY                                                                                                                                                           During the 1960s she emerged as a prominent political activist and writer. She was Queensland state secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI), and was involved in a number of other political organisations. She was a key figure in the campaign for the reform of the Australian constitution to allow Aboriginal people full citizenship, lobbying Prime Minister Robert Menzies in 1965, and his successor Harold Holt in 1966. At one deputation in 1963, she taught Robert Menzies a lesson in the realities of Aboriginal life. After offering the deputation an alcoholic drink, he was startled to learn that in Queensland he could be jailed for doing the same thing.
She wrote many books, beginning with We Are Going (1964), the first book to be published by an Aboriginal woman. The title poem concludes:
The scrubs are gone, the hunting and the laughter.
The eagle is gone, the emu and the kangaroo are gone from this place.
The bora ring is gone.
The corroboree is gone.
And we are going.
This first book of poetry was extraordinarily successful, selling out in several editions, and setting Oodgeroo well on the way to be Australia’s highest-selling poet alongside C. J. Dennis. Critics’ responses, however, were mixed, with some questioning whether Oodgeroo, as an Aboriginal person, could really have written it herself. Others were disturbed by the activism of the poems, and found that they were "propaganda" rather than what they considered to be real poetry. Oodgeroo embraced the idea of her poetry as propaganda, and described her own style as "sloganistic, civil-writerish, plain and simple." She wanted to convey pride in her Aboriginality to the broadest possible audience, and to popularise equality and Aboriginal rights through her writing.
In 1972 she bought a property on North Stradbroke Island (also known as Minjerribah) which she called Moongalba ('sitting-down place'), and established the Noonuccal-Nughie Education and Cultural Centre. And in 1977, a documentary about her, called Shadow Sister, was released. It was directed and produced by Frank Heimans and photographed by Geoff Burton. It describes her return to Moongalba and her life there. In a 1987 interview, she described her education program at Moongalba, saying that over "the last seventeen years I've had 26,500 children on the island. White kids as well as black. And if there were green ones, I'd like them too ... I'm colour blind, you see. I teach them about Aboriginal culture. I teach them about the balance of nature." Oodgeroo was committed to education at all levels, and collaborated with universities in creating programs for teacher education that would lead to better teaching in Australian schools
In 1974 Noonuccal was aboard a British Airways flight that was hijacked by terrorists campaigning for Palestinian liberation. The hijackers shot a crew member and a passenger and forced the plane to fly to several different African destinations. During her three days in captivity, she used a blunt pencil and an airline sickbag from the seat pocket to write two poems, ‘Commonplace’ and ‘Yusuf (Hijacker)’.
In 1988 she adopted a traditional name: Oodgeroo (meaning "paperbark tree") Noonuccal (her tribe's name).
She died in 1993 in Victoria aged 72.
A play has since been written by Sam Watson entitled Oodgeroo: Bloodline to Country commemorating Oodgeroo Noonuccal's life, being a play swinging around Oodgeroo Noonuccal's real life experience as an Aboriginal woman on board a flight hijacked by Palestinian terrorists on her way home from a committee meeting in Nigeria for the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture


Oodgeroo won several literary awards, including the Mary Gilmore Medal (1970), the Jessie Litchfield Award (1975), and the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Award.
She was awarded an MBE in 1970, returning it in 1987 to protest the Australian Bicentenary celebrations, and to make a political statement at the condition of her people.