This weekend’s AFL indigenous round is named for Sir Douglas Nicholls. Australian Football’s webpage makes a significant comment about the champion Fitzroy footballer, “Arguably one of the most famous, and undeniably among the most important, Australians of the 20th century, Doug Nicholls' most significant accomplishments transcended football.”
What were they?
A few weeks ago, I stood in the humble weatherboard schoolhouse at Cummerugunga where a young Douglas had hidden under the floorboards for fear of the police who were taking the young girls away to the Cootamundra Girls Home. In later life, he said that Jesus’ message of forgiveness enabled him to rise above bitterness.
As an activist he spent a lifetime working to overcome racism in Australia. He championed the 1967 referendum that saw his people finally recognised as citizens. As a Church of Christ minister, he was much loved for decades of delivering kindness and help to the Aboriginal community in Melbourne. Although knighted by the Queen for his services and made the first Aboriginal Governor in Australia, he insisted that his highest title was simply ‘Pastor.’
I stood at the grave of Douglas and his wife Gladys at Cummerugunga. They had chosen the words of the early Christian missionary Paul to express the transcendent goal of their lives. They have a distinctly AFL feel!
‘We strove towards the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’
You can read more about Cummeragunja and the life of Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls on this website by looking at the archives in February 2022 (Leading and Writing) and May 2022 (A Compelling Double Act). Alternatively, they can be found under Indigenous in the Categories.
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