The Australian Abo Call: the voice of the Aborigines
Aboriginal leader John (Jack) Patten was a co-founder of the Aborigines Progressive Association in 1936 and became president in 1937. He was a key organiser of the 1938 Day of Mourning protest held in Sydney during the Australia Day celebrations marking 150 years of European settlement.
Protesters marched through the Sydney streets and then held a conference attended by over one thousand people. The event was one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world.
Speaking at the protest meeting, Patten appealed to the Australian nation to introduce new legislation for the education and care of Aboriginal people and for full citizenship status and equality in society. A delegation of activists presented Prime Minister Joseph Lyons with these policy proposals but these were rejected because the Commonwealth government did not hold constitutional powers in relation to Aboriginal people. It was not until 1967 that Aboriginal people received full citizen rights with amendments to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 Section 51 (xxvi).
Following the 1938 protest, the Australian Abo Call began publication in April 1938. Jack Patten edited the newspaper which continued to highlight issues raised during the Day of Mourning. The banner read, ‘The Australian Abo Call: the voice of the Aborigines, representing 80, 000 Australian Aborigines. We ask for Education, Opportunity, and full citizen rights'.
The newspaper was short-lived with its publication run lasting from April – September 1938. The State Library holds all 6 issues in the collection of Percy Reginald Stephenson's papers.
Stephensen, a noted writer and publisher was strong advocate for Aboriginal citizenship. He was honorary secretary of the Aboriginal Citizenship Committee, a support group of the Aborigines Progressive Association and editor of the Australian Abo Call.
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