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Phillip Roberts

(1922 to 1988)

Phillip Roberts

Source: Smoke Signals, June 1969

Phillip Roberts, of Alawa descent, was educated at Roper River Mission, south east of Darwin. He was an initiated man who had worked with the army's North Australian Unit as a tracker and so was comfortable in both black and white worlds. After the war he worked as a mechanic, a hospital orderly and a health inspector.

Phillip joined the Northern Territory Council for Aboriginal Rights, which had formed in 1962, and became its president in 1965. In 1964, along with Dexter Daniels, Phillip was invited by Tom Mboya, President of a newly independent Kenya, to the independence celebrations. Roberts attended annual Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders conferences from 1964 and was elected as Northern Territory state secretary in 1967, a position he held until 1972.

Phillip played a key role in reviving the Northern Territory Council for Aboriginal Rights as a mechanism to support the 1966 walk-offs from cattle stations over pay, conditions and land. He was a resolute political activist, concerned about the alienation of reserve lands. He argued strongly for forms of group ownership such as cooperatives, so that traditional owners could develop their lands.

Further reading

Douglas Lockwood, I, the Aboriginal, Rigby, Adelaide, 1962 (life story of Phillip Roberts as told to Lockwood)

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