Browse Entries

Day of Mourning Protest (26 January 1938)

26 January 1938
26 January 1938


In October 1937 the Fergusen and Patton wings of the Aborigines Progressive Association joined forces with William Cooper's Australian Aborigines League to unite behind Cooper's call for a Day of Mourning on Australia Day 1938 (the sesqui-centenery of British settlement). The united front began an intense and dramatic campaign of public speeches, support meetings and press interviews. The campaign ultimately forced the NSW Premier to set up a Select Committee to inquire into the policies and administration of the NSW Aborigines Protection Board.

The Day of Mourning and Protest on 26 January 1938 the celebration of 150 years of 'theft and genocide'. The Australian Aborigines League called on white Australia: 'You took our land by force ... You have almost exterminated our people, but there are enough of us remaining to expose the humbug of your claim, to be civilised, progressive and humane.' AAL President William Cooper declares 26th of January a ‘Day of Mourning’.

At the Day of Mourning Congress on 26 January 1938, Jack Patten, as President of the Aborigines' Progressive Association, announced: "The conference is called to bring home to the white people of Australia the frightful conditions in which the native aborigines of this continent live. We ask for full citizen rights, including old age pensions, maternity bonus, relief work when unemployed, and the right to a full education for our children."

The Day of Mourning protest in 1938 is regarded as one of the most important moments in the history of the indigenous resistance in the early 20th Century.

[Gary Foley]