William Cooper

A leader of leaders.

1861-1941

William Cooper was a mobilising force in the early fight for Indigenous rights. His measured political lobbying in the 1930s was an important precursor to the more radical rights movement that followed. Cooper believed that Aboriginal people should be represented in Parliament, an outcome he continued to pursue despite disheartening results in his lifetime.

Cooper's Australian Aborigines' League, and the publicity it generated, marked an important turning point. Cooper inspired and mentored a new generation of leaders— people like Sir Doug Nicholls—who would go on to break down barriers. Described as a man ahead of his time, Cooper's unwavering belief that Aboriginal people could and should control their own destiny would become a powerful motivator as the 20th century progressed.