Greater Shepparton City Council has begun to be very active in beginning to recognise the contribution of Aboriginal people to our society and the rich history of its culture locally. Recently a life size bronze statue was unveiled in Shepparton’s Queens Gardens in recognition of the contribution made by William Cooper. I dropped by to take a look and learn a little more…Shepparton’s Queens Gardens are located on the intersection of Wyndham Street and Nixon Street in the cities CBD. It’s a quiet oasis in this bustling Northern Victorian town and is a great place to sit and admire the roses and large trees.
Parking the car opposite the Visitor Information Centre in Nixon Street, I follow the sealed path towards the centre of the garden and the life size bronze statue of William Cooper.
The bronze statue was commissioned by the William Cooper Memorial Committee a little over 12 months ago and Melbourne artist Pamela McKillop was entrusted with the project.
William Cooper was born in 1860 in Yorta Yorta country near the confluence of the Murray and Goulburn rivers. He was known for his excellent literacy skills and as a quick learner. Both these skills stood him in good stead as he pursued a life of activism. He is known to have established the Australian Aborigines League and was passionate about issues faced by Aboriginal people. He created many petitions including for Aboriginal land rights and representation of Aboriginal people in parliament.
Not only concerned with the rights of his own people, William Cooper raised awareness of anti-Jewish violence in Nazi Germany through a protest at the German Consulate in Melbourne.
The statue stands tall and proud in the Queens Gardens. In one hand he holds paper to signify his life of activism through petitions and letter writing. In his other hand he holds a eucalyptus branch to signify his connection to country.
The day was still warm and I retreated to the shade of a nearby tree to reflect on the remarkable life of this man before heading home.
Shepparton is easily reached by car from Melbourne via the Hume and Goulburn Valley Highways in a little over 2 hours.
Public Transport Victoria provides a connection from Melbourne via V/Line train and / or coach. Contact V/Line for details. https://www.vline.com.au/
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