24 July 2020 // Annie Morgan
Annie Morgan (October 1870s - 1 August 1935) was born at Antwerp Station, near Dimboola. Her mother had a European father and an Aboriginal mother and both her father’s parents were Aboriginal. When she was 11 she was taken to Wycheproof, and for 12 years was forced into domestic work.
Travelling to New South Wales, she met her husband Caleb. who was born at Coranderrk and married. They lived at Cumeroogumga Station for eight years, after which we moved to Wagga.
For 19 years her husband made a living by rabbit-trapping. agricultural labouring, fencing and so on. In 1927 they crossed over to Swan Hill and later relocated to Coldstream.
When Annie turned 60 she applied for a Commonwealth old age pension, but was informed that she was regarded as an Aboriginal person and therefore not entitled to one.
On the other hand, she was unable to receive any assistance from the State Aborigines' Board, because that body considered her not to be be a true Aboriginal. The official reply of the Aborigines' Board to Mrs Morgan's statements is indicated in a memorandum, recording that the Board regarded Mr and Mrs Morgan as nearer the white than the Aboriginal standard, and. therefore, under the Aborigines' Act, the Board had no power to assist Them. They were then referred to the State Relief Committee.
Outspoken on behalf of Aboriginal people in the 19th Century, in 1935 she took to the lectern, at a meeting held by the International Women's Day Committee at the Unity Hall, one of the first Aboriginal woman to speak in public of the injustices against her people.
Anna Morgan died of acute renal infection on 1 August 1935 at Coldstream and was buried in the new Melbourne general cemetery, Fawkner. A daughter survived her, as did Caleb, who died on 18 May 1943 in Melbourne and was buried in Fawkner cemetery.
Here are the three main newspaper articles of the day where she boldly speaks truth to power.
NATIVE WOMAN MAKES APPEAL FOR ABORIGINAL RIGHTS
"We are black, and that means we are nothing. There is no sanctity for our womanhood, any white man can insult us, and we have no redress...
The black people want education and the chance to emancipate themselves...But they were sent teachers that were not always qualified, and the educational standard did not reach above the second grade...'
Mrs. Morgan condemned the Government for taking girls away from their families as soon as they reached the age of 14.
“Missionaries were sent to them...But they do nothing for the Aboriginal people, except teach them the Gospel. The missionaries usually made plenty of money by using the Aboriginal people for their own ends, and what did my people receive in return?”
"We do not resent the white people being here," said Mrs. Morgan, "But we think we should all be given some part of the land that was ours, so that we can make a home. Our people should be educated."
Herald (Melbourne) 23-1-1935
WOMAN FIGHTS FOR ABORIGINAL PEOPLE
Incensed by the "poverty, prejudices, and injustices" against which her people are struggling, Mrs A. Morgan, an Aboriginal woman, has decided to speak on the public platform in an effort to bring home to white people the disabilities of the Aboriginal person man in Australia.
The first Aboriginal woman to lecture in public, Mrs Morgan is a remarkable woman, more than 60 years of age, and almost entirely self-educated.
She is quiet and well-spoken, and in a special interview with The Herald today, revealed a grasp of Australia's political and economic problems which would be the envy of many University-educated white people.
"The Aboriginal people of Australia are trying to emancipate themselves," Mrs Morgan said. "The authorities are hindering them at every turn and keeping them in enforced ignorance and poverty. All my life I have been reading books, searching for knowledge and fighting against those who want to draw the line between me and my white neighbours. Now I am determined to try to put my people's case before you."
Mrs Morgan will give her first address at Unity Hall tonight, under the auspices of the International Women's Day Committee.
Herald (Melbourne) 24.1.1935
ABORIGINAL WOMAN'S APPEAL
One of the most interesting speeches, because it was unique, delivered by any of the speakers at a recent rally of the Women's International Day Committee in Melbourne, was that of Mrs. Morgan, an educated Aboriginal woman, who had never spoken previously at any similar rally.
The immediate object of the committee is to rally women round such demands as equal pay for equal work, better conditions for children, sustenance for unemployed women etc.
Mrs. Morgan began in the interrogative mood. She asked "What is the position of Aboriginal women?" and continued: "I am not allowed the old age pension because I am 'too dark.'I get nothing from the Aboriginal Protection Board because my mother was of mixed parentage.
What are we? Can anyone tell us what we are? Not allowed to vote, not allowed to own the land which was all ours before the white people came."There is no sanctity for our women.
In the settlements the boss has absolute power. He can separate a man from his wife and children for weeks, if he likes.
''Our children are not getting the same education as the white children. The teachers sent out are not always properly qualified, and do not bother to teach anything beyond the three R's. In one case a girl became fully qualified and was not allowed to teach Aboriginal children because she is Aboriginal.
Missionaries who come to the settlement send their own children to college on what they earn at this, but do they ever think that some poor Aboriginal child might benefit from an education? Is there a single case on record where they have tried sending such a child to college?“No.
The white people complain about rationing. The poor black has been on rations all his life. There is no butter, und very little meat, fish, or vegetables in the ration handed out to the Aboriginal people in the settlements.
"The girls are taken by force from the settlements as soon as they reach the age of 14, so that they will not marry Aboriginal men. They are sent out to service, which is very little different from slavery, in white families.
This ls because the Board wants to stamp out the Aboriginal people."
Thanking the committee for giving her a chance to speak on the conditions of her people, Mrs. Morgan concluded by saying that she realised all workers must unite in the struggle before the Aboriginal people could gain their rights.”