Aborigines Advancement League

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The Aborigines Advancement League (also known as the Aboriginal Advancement League) claims to be the oldest Aboriginal organisation in Australia.[1] It is primarily concerned with Aboriginal welfare issues and the preservation of Aboriginal culture and heritage, and is based in Melbourne.


The League was established in 1957 as a response to an enquiry by retired magistrate, Charles McLean, into the circumstances of Aboriginal Victorians. McLean was critical of conditions in the Lake Tyers and Framlingham Aboriginal Reserves. McLean recommended that persons of mixed Aboriginal and European descent be removed from the reserves. The people of Lake Tyers objected to this, and the League was formed out of their campaign.[2]

The new League drew from two already existing organisations, the Australian Aborigines League, established 1934[3] and the Save the Aborigines Committee, which had been established in 1955 as a response to the Warburton Ranges crisis.[1] Founding President of the League was Gordon Bryant, with Doris Blackburn as Deputy President, Stan Davey as Secretary and Douglas Nicholls as Field Officer.[1]

Early activities included lobbying for a referendum to change the Australian constitution to allow the Federal government to legislate on Aboriginal affairs, and an establishing a legal defence fund for Albert Namatjira, after he was charged with supplying liquor to an Aboriginal ward.[1] By 1967 it had moved to being fully controlled by Aboriginal people with Bill Onus as the first Aboriginal President.[4]

Current activities

The League provides a number of services to Koorie people, including family support, food assistance, home visits, advocacy, counselling and educational programs, drug and alcohol awareness and funeral services. It also has a Cultural Unit that provides information and speakers for schools.[5]

Smoke Signals. ISSN 0049-0776. OCLC 220165347. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |journal= (help)CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> is the official magazine of the AAL. Commencing publication in April 1960, it continues to the present day (as of 2011).[6]

Headquarters and keeping place

In 1999 the Victorian government completed a $2,790,000 renovation of the Leagues headquarters in Watt St., Thornbury. As well as providing a community facility, the building houses a museum and "keeping place" for items of historical, cultural and spiritual importance to Aboriginal people.[7]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Victorian Aborigines Advancement League
  2. Agreements, Treaties and Negotiated Settlements Project
  3. Australian Aborigines League – Institution – Reason in Revolt
  4. Onus, William Townsend (Bill) (1906–1968) Biographical Entry – Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
  5. ourcommunity.com.au – Directory of Organisations
  6. "Magazine - Smoke Signals, Aborigines Advancement League, Vol. 1, No. 1, Apr 1960". Museum Victoria. Retrieved 28 March 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Minister opens refurbished Aborigines Advancement League (2/7/99)