Australian Aborigines Progressive Association

2008
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Australian Aborigines Progressive Association

The Australian Aborigines Progressive Association was launched in April 1925 with a conference at St David's Hall in Surry Hills. The association had formed in 1924, but the conference, which was to be the first of four, attracted widespread media attention and a large crowd.

Fred Maynard, president of the association, opened the conference with the words 'brothers and sisters, we have much business to transact here so let's get right down to it.' [1] Maynard was influenced by black activists in the United States, in particular Marcus Garvey, and had been involved in the Coloured Progressive Association, a group that was operational in Sydney during the years 1903–08. [2]

The Australian Aborigines Progressive Association operated out of Addison's Hall at 460 Crown Street, Surry Hills, and had extensive links with communities in northern New South Wales. It called for the right of Aborigines to determine their own lives.

At the forefront was the need for Aboriginal people to regain control of their land. Many of the activists involved with the association had personally experienced the loss of land through the revocation of Aboriginal reserves under the Aborigines Protection Act 1883. [3] They also campaigned against the practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families. Ultimately the association wanted the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board to be dissolved and replaced with an organisation controlled and staffed by Aboriginal people. [4]

The association wrote frequently to newspapers and the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Board, but few of the letters were published. Their activities culminated in a petition addressed to Jack Lang, the Premier of New South Wales, in May 1927, which called for the restitution of Aboriginal land. Jane Duren had also written an appeal to King George V, which contested the power of the Aborigines Protection Board to withdraw Aboriginal control of reserves on the grounds that they had been granted by Queen Victoria. [5] The activities of the Australian Aborigines Progressive Association received extensive coverage in the newspapers, particularly in the Newcastle newspaper The Voice of the North and the Sydney Morning Herald.

The association grew to have eleven branches throughout New South Wales and over 500 active members. [6] However the broad reach and vocal approach of the organisation alerted the Aborigines Protection Board to the threat that it posed. They set about a campaign to discredit the leaders of the association, attacking the credibility of Fred Maynard through a series of public statements. The association was also subject to frequent police harassment. The children of Fred Maynard recall that threats were made against him and his family. [7] By the end of 1927 the association had been dissolved.

Notes

[1] John Maynard, 'For Liberty and Freedom: Fred Maynard and the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association', paper delivered to the History Council of New South Wales, 18 November 2004, accessed 20 June 2008, http://www.historycouncilnsw.org.au/download_docs/John%20Maynard%20Presentation.pdf

[2] John Maynard, 'For Liberty and Freedom: Fred Maynard and the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association', paper delivered to the History Council of New South Wales, 18 November 2004, accessed 20 June 2008, http://www.historycouncilnsw.org.au/download_docs/John%20Maynard%20Presentation.pdf

[3] John Maynard, 'Fred Maynard and the AAPA', in Aboriginal History, vol 21, 1997, p 4

[4] John Maynard, 'Fred Maynard and the AAPA', in Aboriginal History, vol 21, 1997, pp 8–9

[5] Bain Attward and Andrew Markus, The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights: A Documentary History, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1999, pp 59, 70

[6] John Maynard, 'For Liberty and Freedom: Fred Maynard and the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association', paper delivered to the History Council of New South Wales, 18 November 2004, accessed 20 June 2008, http://www.historycouncilnsw.org.au/download_docs/John%20Maynard%20Presentation.pdf

[7] John Maynard, 'Fred Maynard and the AAPA', in Aboriginal History, vol 21, 1997, p 11

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