Remembering Margaret Tucker (1904 – 1996)

Margaret Tucker

A lifelong civil rights campaigner, Margaret Tucker (nee Clements) was a Yorta Yorta (Dhulinyagan) woman born at Warrangesda Mission on the Murrumbidgee River in NSW in 1904, to parents William and Theresa “Yarmuk” Clements (nee Middleton).

At the age of 12 Margaret became a member of the Stolen Generations, when she was stolen from her family whilst living at the Moonahcullah Mission near Deniliquin in NSW, and sent to the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls. At the training home Margaret and her fellow inmates were taught to be domestic servants for upper middle class Anglo-Celtic families.

Following the completion of her training in 1919 Margaret Tucker 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.

In 1932 Margaret helped form the Victorian based Australian Aborigines League, serving as the organisation’s treasurer.

In 1938 Margaret was chosen to represent the AAL and the Victorian Koori community, along with William Cooper and Doug Nicholls in Sydney during the Day of Mourning conference, organised by the NSW based Aborigines Progressive Association to mark the sesquicentenary of European invasion. Margaret Tucker was among the conference attendees who formed a delegation of representatives to meet with Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, to outline the APA’s demands, as drafted by Jack Patten and William Ferguson.

Margaret Tucker joined a chorus of Koori voices in 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?”

In 1964 Margaret Tucker became the first Koori woman appointed to the Aborigines Welfare Board (Victoria).

In 1968 Margaret Tucker was awarded an MBE for services to the Victorian Koori community.

In 1970, Margaret Tucker joined the Victorian Aboriginal and Islander Women’s Council, which had been founded in that year by Margaret’s sister, Geraldine Briggs. Through the leadership of both sisters, the organisation would blossom into becoming the nationally focused United Council of Aboriginal and Islander Women in 1972.

In 1977 Margaret’s life story was published as the book “If Everyone Cared”, the first autobiography written by an Aboriginal person.

Margaret Tucker is remembered for an inclusive approach to civil rights, being an advocate for reconciliation between black and white Australians, long before such an approach became fashionable. In 1976 Margaret Tucker was quoted as saying:

I used to feel that colour was a great problem.. now I don’t feel a scrap concerned about colour and I’m delighted to be a person. Colour is not the issue. We can all live together without hate and bitterness.

Margaret Tucker was lost to the world in 1996, and was survived by her daughter Mollie Burns, and six grandchildren.

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Joy Butkovich says:

    Dear Koori,

    Thank you for this fascinating story of a wonderful and determined woman. I will continue reading on this site to understand more of Koori history – so much that I did not know.

  2. Donna says:

    We honour you Aunty Marg. What a legacy you have left. Thank you for everything you went thru. I love your book. You was our First Ambassador.
    A Great Woman and Leader. Love You.

  3. aliyah says:

    this helped me a lot with all my essays and assignments for high school

  4. Milton Nomikoudis says:

    Thank you for this article about a truly great and courageous leader; one of the many great leaders of the Yorta Yorta people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: