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WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following may contain images, story and voices of deceased, by and about persons. Discretion advised.

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Jim Hagan

29 July 2020 // Jim Hagan

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Jim Hagan (21 April 1932 - 5 April 2016 ) was born in Bourke in northern New South Wales during one of his parents’ long trips south to keep their children out of harm’s way from white government officials who were on the lookout for half-caste kids.

When Jim completed Grade Four at the Cunnamulla State School, his father wrote to the headmaster prior to the school break-up in December, seeking his permission for him to leave. As a 14 year old, his father wanted him to go with his uncle to learn to be a stockman.


Jim worked on a number of sheep and cattle stations before he married and had five children. 

In 1964, along with a couple of other Aboriginals from the Cunnamulla “Yumba” fringe camp, Jim began to take an interest in trying to improve conditions and opportunities for his people at the local level. His quest to improve the living standards of his people saw him become one of the foundation members of the Cunnamulla Australian Native Welfare Association when it was formed in 1964.

Jim also sought and later became a member of the local branch of the Australian Labor Party. He was the first Aboriginal person to speak to the Australian Parliamentary Cabinet, and the first Aboriginal person to address the United Nations. Here he spoke on the Noonkanbah dispute involving the granting of mining exploration permit by the Western Australian Government to drill on sacred land.

During the 1970s and 80s, he headed up the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) – originally established under the Whitlam Government in 1977. The body was created to provide a forum for the expression of Aboriginal views – their work eventually led to asking for a Makarrata (treaty) with the Commonwealth Government.

Jim would never see any outcome from his life’s work. He passed away last year at age of 83, still waiting to see a resolution.

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