Well, that was a surreal experience. I went directly from debating the merits (or mainly otherwise) of a “Confessional Catholic State” (see blog below) to a gathering where the Jewish community of Melbourne were gathered together with members of the Yorta Yorta indigenous nation, the State Premier, the Israeli Ambassador, and the German Consul General, to honour an aboriginal man who, in 1938, led a delegation of indigenous people to the German consulate to protest against the persecution of the Jews of Germany in the infamous “Kristellnacht” attacks.
William Cooper was 77 years old at the time. He was nearing the end of his life, much of which he had spent fighting for the rights of his people to have a voice as citizens of this nation. And when no-one else said a word for the voiceless victims of the Nazi horror, he spoke up. You can read the whole story here in Sunday’s Age.
The politicians present quoted a lot of well known quotations, and offered a good many platitudes appropriate to the occasion.
But the words really worth listening to were those of Mr Cooper’s (now elderly) grandson and a local well known member of the Jewish community who, as a 17 year old lad, came to Melbourne in 1939, having experienced Kristellnacht in Vienna.
The comment was made many times tonight that William Cooper had no reason to speak up for the Jews of Europe. He did so because, as a man who was denied a voice, he recognised himself to be a brother of others without a voice.
(P.S.: One could say that here was an aboriginal brother who “got off his arse” and did something… when the rest of us where sitting around on our arses doing nothing.)