Wilson Family Scholarship in memory of William Cooper

William Cooper William Cooper

Yorta Yorta man William Cooper was a human rights activist who dedicated his life to fight for indigenous rights. In December 1938 he led a protest to the German Consulate in Melbourne condemning the treatment of Jews under Nazi rule.

In 2013, in appreciation for the courageous protest of William Cooper, the Wilson family generously inaugurated a scholarship for indigenous students studying at the tertiary level to honour the legacy of William Cooper.

While visiting the museum, members of the family viewed a display dedicated to William Cooper. As supporters of the Centre with a passion for helping indigenous youth, they envisaged a scholarship in William Cooper's memory which would assist indigenous students in a practical way during their academic years. The JHC saw the scholarship as an extension of its work in the community.

The JHC has had a long association with the indigenous community due to a common history of parallels and intersections with the Jewish community. Both have a long history and connection to their land. Jewish tribes and Aboriginal tribes foster a strong sense of belonging, culture, respect and history.

In more recent times, and since the inception of the Jewish Holocaust Centre, we have enjoyed a close and ongoing relationship with the Aboriginal community, members of which frequently attend the Centre for programs and for contemplation. Many see the Centre as a place of healing and associate the pain which Indigenous Australians have endured with the pain endured by the Holocaust survivors they meet at the Centre.

Today we enjoy regular visits from Galiamble and indigenous students in schools across the state. We value this relationship and the opportunity to talk about the contribution of both communities to each other.

In 2013 the JHC held a smoking ceremony with the traditional owners of the land on which the JHC stands. This ceremony was another milestone in the developing relationship between the Jewish Holocaust Centre, the survivors, the Jewish Community and the Aboriginal people.

Aboriginal Australians are proud of the courage of Aboriginal activist, William Cooper, whose story of was rediscovered by the Jewish Holocaust Centre. Cooper's work further cemented the relationship of the JHC with the aboriginal people and in more recent times Cooper's human rights contribution has been acknowledged by the Victorian Government with mention in Parliament and the naming of significant buildings around Melbourne.

The scholarship commenced at Deakin and Monash Universities in 2013 with whom the JHC has collaborated for a number of years.   The first recipients were announced in 2014. The success of this program has prompted the Wilson family to extend the scholarships to Melbourne University and RMIT (commencing in 2016).

2014 scholarship recipient, Jessica Rodaughan with Nick Yates
Reenactment of aboriginal leader, William Cooper's Kristallnacht protest
Uncle Boydie, grandson of William Cooper with Nick Yates
Indigenous smoking Ceremony at the JHC in 2013

We would like to thank the Wilson family - Dennis & Tauba Wilson and Nick and Nina Yates - for their passionate and innovative support. Many thanks also to the wonderful staff at our partner universities for facilitating these important scholarships.

For further information please visit the following websites.