Postage stamp honours Sir Doug

Sir Douglas Nicholls (Sir Doug) was a Fitzroy footballer, a pastor, an Aboriginal rights campaigner and a state governor has been honoured on an Australian postage stamp.

Michael Zsolt from Australia Post said the stamp’s release marks the 50th anniversary of the knighting of Sir Doug.

He was the first Aboriginal Australian to be knighted in 1972 for the advancement of the Aboriginal people.

The Queen bestowed a second knighthood on Sir Doug with the prestigious Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order when he hosted her on the 1977 royal tour.

“The release of this important stamp celebrates Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls and highlights his significant contribution to society,” Mr Zsolt said.

The release of the stamp also coincides with the NAIDOC week celebrations.

His grandchild Bev Murray made the request to Australia Post for a stamp.

“My grandparents were incredible people, and I am proud to walk in their footprints and continue their great work in advancing the rights of our people and supporting the most vulnerable. I am very grateful to Australia Post for remembering my grandparents’ incredible achievements,” Ms Murray said.

Sir Doug was a Yorta Yorta man.

He was born on 9 December 1906 at the Cummeragunja Aboriginal Mission on the banks of the Murray River in New South Wales.

The experiences of his early family life under the control of the Aborigines Protection Board steered him to a life where he advocated passionately for Aboriginal rights and welfare.

He had an incredible career playing 54 games for Fitzroy in the Victorian Football League until 1937, when he retired with a knee problem.

After his mother passed away, Sir Doug re-embraced Christianity and was ordained as a preacher in 1945.

He became the inaugural pastor of the first Aboriginal Church of Christ in Australia at Fitzroy’s Gore Street Mission and worked with young Aboriginal people arriving in Melbourne.

This work led him to establish a hostel and a gathering place for the community, the Gladys Nicholls Hostel (named after his wife) and the Douglas Nicholls Centre.

He helped form the Federal Council for Aboriginal Advancement in 1958.

The organisation had the mandate to achieve equal rights for all Australians and his work helped toward the highly successful 1967 Constitutional Referendum.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) explained that before the 1967 Constitutional Referendum, First Nations people weren’t recognised as part of the Australian population.

This meant States created their own policies regarding First Nations people, the consequence being rampant dispossession, oppression and control of First Nations people.

On 27 May 1967, 90.77 per cent of people able to vote, voted yes, and every state and territory had a majority result for the yes vote to change the Constitution.

After the 1967 Referendum, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were counted as part of the Australian population, and the Commonwealth made laws that States had to follow.

The referendum didn’t give First Nations people the right to vote, full rights to vote were not granted federally until Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were required to register on the electoral roll in 1984.

“Dad would be very humbled about getting his image on a stamp, and I know mum would think it an amazing honour for the whole Nicholls family. My dad came from very humble beginnings and ended up being knighted. He was much loved and respected across Australia and I am so happy that his name lives on,” his daughter Aunty Pam Pedersen said.

The Pastor Sir Douglas Nicholls KCVO OBE stamp is available through Post Offices.

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