Aunty Marge Tucker MBE

Among many achievements, Aunty Marge became the first Aboriginal woman to serve on the Aboriginal Welfare Board.

Honour Roll

Margaret Tucker was born at Warangesda, New South Wales. She spent her early childhood with her family on the Cummeragunja and Moonacullah stations. She was removed from the latter in 1917 by police and Aboriginal Protection Board officials, and sent to the Cootamundra Girls' Home for training for domestic service in white middle-class homes.

Hating the experience, she ran away twice. After finally leaving the home at sixteen, she worked in Sydney, in rural New South Wales and then in Melbourne; where she married. During World War II, Marge went to live in Seddon, Melbourne. She was among the first of many high-profile Aboriginal women in Victoria to speak out publicly for the rights of Aboriginal people.

Marge worked tirelessly with William Cooper and the Australian Aborigines League to raise the profile and highlight the plight of Aboriginal people amongst white Australians. In the 1960s, she became the first Aboriginal woman to serve on the Aboriginal Welfare Board, and together with Aboriginal opera singer, Harold Blair, sang to raise fund to assist Aboriginal communities living in dire poverty on the edges of white society.

Known by her tribal name Lilardia, a name given to her by William Cooper, Marge was an entertainer of renown. Singing was an important part of Marge's life and she gave the gift of music and song freely to benefit others. Like many women in the west, Marge supported herself and daughter Mollie during the war years, working for local industry.

Marge worked alongside Greek and Italian migrants who, like Aboriginal Australians, were often the victims of racism and discrimination. Friendships often ensued between Aboriginal people and the southern European migrants of Melbourne's west. In her biography, If Everyone Cared, Marge recalled the Christmas break-up concerts at Kinnears and the rousing response of the Italian workers to her rendition of 'Silent Night', sung in Aboriginal Aranda tongue.

She also recalled the police taking her and her sister, May, forcibly away from her primary school and her mother. Her mother resisted fiercely, but to no avail. "Then we were taken to the police station, where the policeman no doubt had to report. Mother followed him, thinking she could beg once more for us, only to rush out when she heard the car start up. My last memory of her for many years was her waving pathetically, as we waved back and called out goodbye to her, but we were too far away for her to hear us.

I heard years later how after watching us go out of her life, she wandered away from the police station three miles along the road leading out of the town to Moonacullah. She was worn out, with no food or money, her apron still on. She wandered of the road to rest in the long grass under a tree. That is where old Uncle and Aunt found her the next day. They had arrived back with Geraldine from the Deniliquin hospital and they were at once surrounded by our people at Moonacullah, who told them the whole story.

Someone immediately offered the loan of a fresh horse to go back and find Mother. They found our mother still moaning and crying. They heard the sounds and thought it was an animal in pain. Uncle stopped the horse and got out of the buggy to investigate. Auntie heard him talking in the language. She got down and rushed to old Uncle's side. Mother was half demented and ill.

They gave her water and tried to feed her, but she couldn't eat. She was not interested in anything for weeks, and wouldn't let Geraldine out of her sight. She slowly got better, but I believe for months after, at the sight of a policeman's white helmet coming round the bend of the river, she would grab her little girl and escape into the bush, as did all Aboriginal people who had children."