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13 July 2021 // Margaret Tucker
Margaret Lilardia Tucker MBE (18 March 1904 – 23 August 1996)
was born at Warrangesda Mission near Narrandera to William Clements, a Wiradjuri man, and Theresa Clements, née Middleton, a member of the Yorta Yorta Nation. She spent her childhood at Cummeragunja Aboriginal Reserve.
In 1917, aged 13, she was forcibly removed to the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls, where she was badly treated. After two years of training in white domestic practices, in 1919 she was sent to the suburbs of Sydney, beginning an eleven year career as a domestic servant. This was a traumatic period of time for Margaret, marked by experiences of racism and other abuses, both physical and mental. These experiences were pivotal in shaping Margaret Tucker’s resolve, resulting in joining with her cousin’s Jack Patten and George Patten, to fight for the rights of their people.
The Aborigines Protection Board intervened and she was given another placement from which she ran away. In 1925 the Board released her and she moved to Naarm (Melbourne).
In the 1930s Tucker began campaigning for Indigenous rights with William Cooper, Bill Onus and Douglas Nicholls and in 1932 was one of the founding members of the Australian Aborigines' League, serving as the organisation’s treasurer. During this time she married and gave birth to a daughter, Mollie.
Tucker joined the opposition to atomic testing on Australian soil during 1952. She was quoted in the media from a speech delivered during a meeting for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, saying “The Government has said the tests won’t hurt a living thing, but my people are the last who would believe Government promises. What do the white authorities know about Aborigines in the wilds who hide from the white men?”
At first influenced by the Communist Party of Australia, she gravitated later towards the conservative Moral Re-Armament movement. This deepened with an eight-month stay at Mackinac Island. In the 1960s she founded the United Council of Aboriginal and Islander Women and in 1964 she was the first Indigenous appointee to the Victorian Aborigines Welfare Board.
Tucker was awarded the MBE in 1968, recognising her welfare services to Aboriginal Australians. Her 1977 autobiography If Everyone Cared was one of the first books to bring to light the mistreatment of her people and the first autobiography written by an Aboriginal person.
Margaret Tucker died at Mooroopna in Victoria on August 23, aged 92. She was inducted in the Victorian Women's Honour Roll, one of the first to receive the honour, in 2001 and is featured on a large mural in Shepparton, Victoria.