April 25 is an important day in Australia’s history, a day when we stop and remember the terrible battle at Gallipoli in World War 1, and pay tribute to service men and women past and present no matter where they have, or are, serving. Unfortunately it wasn’t always the way, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who served. I’d heard that Shepparton had found a way to begin to recognise the contribution made by Aboriginal people who served in conflict. I made the trip to take a look.
Recognition of the contribution Aboriginal people have made to their local communities and Australian society continues to grow in Greater Shepparton. Did you know that Greater Shepparton has the highest population of Aboriginal people in Victoria outside of the City of Melbourne?
The Aboriginal Street Art Project has been named by locals as ‘Dana Djirrungana Dunguludja Yenbena-l’ which means ‘Proud, Strong, Aboriginal People’ in Yorta Yorta language. This project is aimed at celebrating and recognising the local Aboriginal history and culture within the region.
In early April the next stage of Greater Shepparton City Council s Aboriginal Street Art Project was completed, with the aim to acknowledge local Aboriginal people who fought for Australia in war time.
Many Aboriginal people have fought for Australia in wars over the years and they have often not received the recognition they deserved. It is estimated that between 800 and 1000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders served during World War 1. Enlistment records at the time did not record cultural identity, meaning it is difficult to find an accurate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who served in World War 1.
Aboriginal veterans often found that their war service counted for little and often experienced racism and lack of recognition upon their return. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander veterans were by and large excluded from the soldier settlement land scheme, were denied membership of returned servicemen’s clubs and sadly the names of those who gave their lives were not included on memorials.
The first mural in the Greater Shepparton project is of Private Daniel Cooper. Melbourne artist Cam Scale was engaged to complete the mural which is on an external wall of the Eastbank Centre at the corner of Welsford and Nixon Streets in central Shepparton. Daniel Cooper was the son of Yorta Yorta man Uncle William Cooper and Agnes Hamilton.
Private Daniel Cooper was just 21 years old when he died during World War 1 on a European battlefield in 1917. Like so many others, Daniel never had the chance to return home to the country he fought for. According to https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au Daniel served with the 24th Infantry Battalion in France and Belgium, and died fighting in the Battle of Menin Road. In July and August 1917, Daniel served in the first major offensive at Pozieres and Mouquet Farm. During the Battle of Menin Road on 20 September 1917, Daniel and two other soldiers were behind the 1st line in Ypres sheltered in a railway cutting. The Germans held entrenched defensive positions. The three men were shelled and all died instantly.
He is buried at the Perth Cemetery, Belgium.
More information about Daniel Cooper can be found at: https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/person/127202
More details on Cam Scales work can be found at:
Lest we forget