The chairman of the Sydney Anglican Indigenous Peoples’ Ministry Committee, the Rev Michael Duckett, pays tribute to Christian Indigenous leaders David Unaipon and William Cooper in a video message for NAIDOC Week – which begins this Sunday and runs until July 10.

In the video Mr Duckett, who also pastors Macarthur Indigenous Church in southwestern Sydney, explains that this year’s NAIDOC Week theme is Get Up, Stand Up and Show Up. 

“We have chosen the verse Isaiah 40:31 as a great way of showing the strength we have when our hope is in God," he says. "The NAIDOC theme reminds us to remember those in the past who paved the way for Aboriginal people." He then goes on to tell the stories of two Indigenous Christian leaders.

South Australian and Ngarrindjeri man David Unaipon, whose image is on the $50 note, was an author, inventor and preacher. His father, converted on a mission station, became an evangelist and David followed in his footsteps. On his travels, he was barred from staying in hotels under laws which forbade service to Aboriginal people.

"He was a man who knew racism, a very smart man known as a black genius, yet he could not find a bed on his journeys,” Mr Duckett says. “Yet he kept getting up and standing up and showing up so that it would pay the way for us today. How did he do that? The love of God compelled him." 

The other story highlighted in the video is of Yorta Yorta man William Cooper who, while fighting for justice for Indigenous people, was also the first to protest at the German embassy in Melbourne about the treatment of the Jews following the infamous Kristallnacht persecution of 1938.

"Why did a man who had no rights in his own country go and fight for those in another land, that they might have justice?” Mr Duckett asks. “He was a man filled with God's Spirit, who longed to see God move among Aboriginal people, who longed for a day when Aboriginal people could walk into a shop, could experience freedom and travel where they wanted to, could access a hospital. 

“What made a man keep getting up standing up and showing up? Again, the love of God compelled him to seek justice for all people."

The video can be viewed and downloaded here.

Main photo: (Public Domain) David Unaipon and William Cooper