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George Abdullah

(1919 to 1984)

George Abdullah

Source: Courtesy Jill Abdullah

George Abdulllah was born in Guildford, Western Australia and educated at the Benedictine Mission New Norcia. He worked as a labourer and truck driver, served from 1940 to 1943 in the Militia, which was formed for the defence of Australia and the Territories of Papua and New Guinea, and was granted citizenship on 23 January 1947.

From his association with the Coolbaroo League in the 1940s and interstate public speaking tours, George was instrumental in the establishment of the Western Australian Native Welfare Council (from 1963 the Aboriginal Advancement Council of Western Australia) which was affiliated with the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement. He was the Coolbaroo League representative on the Native Welfare Council and was very active throughout the 1960s and 1970s working for a YES vote in the referendum, organising National Aborigines Day Observance Committee (NADOC) events and bringing to public attention the limitations placed on the rights of Aboriginal citizens. As the manager of the first Aboriginal Centre in Beaufort Street Perth, with his wife Alwyn, George spoke publicly about the issues facing Aboriginal people. He was also a member of the United Nations Committee on Human Rights and the Allawah Grove Settlement. In September 1962, he organised an all-Aboriginal conference on citizenship rights, which adopted a motion to call on the government to repeal the Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act and repeal Section 127 of the Australian Constitution so that Aboriginal people were included in the census.

In 1970 he initiated the Aboriginal Rights Council (later Aboriginal Rights League) and as the first president, he organised the first Aboriginal debutante balls in Perth to demonstrate equality. Through his association with key Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) figures such as Sir Doug Nicholls, Stewart Murray and Kath Walker, later Oodgeroo Noonuccal, he became a founding member of the National Tribal Council (1970). From these national committees, George is best known for being the Chair and Senior Vice Chair of the National Aboriginal Publications Foundation from 1972 to 1981.

George was a charismatic community leader who fought for forty years for equal rights for Aboriginal people and advocated 'My people are not going to be swept under the carpet!'

Jill Abdullah

Further reading

Yasmin Jill Abdullah, George Cyril Abdullah, Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2007

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