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Australian Aborigines League banner made by Bill Onus

Object type

Object number

A rectangular calico banner featuring an inscription in blue and red paint which reads "THE AUSTRALIAN / ABORIGINES LEAGUE / THE ABORIGINE SPEAKS_ / THE VOICE of THE ABORIGINE MUST BE HEARD".

Collection name
Gary Foley collection

Collection statement of significance
The Gary Foley collection consists of a calico banner made by William 'Bill' Onus for the Australian Aborigines League. The banner's black and red hand-lettered painted slogan reads 'AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES LEAGUE. THE ABORIGINE SPEAKS - THE VOICE of THE ABORIGINE MUST BE HEARD'. The banner dates from the late 1940s or early 1950s and is in very good condition.

This banner was hand-made in the late 1940s or early 1950s to promote the Australian Aborigines League (AAL), a significant Melbourne-based Aboriginal protest organisation, by Bill Onus, a leading Aboriginal activist of the time. The AAL was founded in the mid 1930s by William Cooper, a Yorta Yorta elder from Victoria. The AAL was remarkable not only for its public activities - which included organising a petition during the 1930s to King George V, seeking parliamentary representation for Aboriginal people, and participating in the Day of Mourning protest in 1938 which coincided with the sesquicentenary of European settlement in Sydney - but also for its exclusively 'Aboriginal-only' membership, at a time when such a feature was rare. The slogan on the banner 'The voice of the Aborigine must be heard' reflects this aspect of the AAL. Bill Onus, the creator of the banner, was one of the most prominent Aboriginal activists of his time, working in both Sydney and Melbourne. After moving to Melbourne in 1946, he, Pastor Doug Nicholls and other Indigenous activists revived the AAL, whose activities had dwindled after Coopers death in 1941. From the 1940s to the 1960s the AAL worked both publicly and behind the scenes to remove Aboriginal disadvantage. The rarity of protest material surviving from this period makes this a highly significant object.

Bill Onus

Date made
1945 - 1950

Gary Foley

Associated organisation
Australian Aborigines League

Textile - non specific, Paint - non specific

Width: 1900mm
Height: 905mm

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