OUR FAMOUS PEOPLE
Mooroopna was home - at one time or another - to more than it's fair share of famous or significant people. A quick review of this impressive list, will surely spark a few conversations.
James Andrew Douglass
As you will see by the list that follows, Jim’s contribution to the Mooroopna community, as well as to his career, was outstanding.
Jim was born in Singleton NSW. He was a Food Technologist and had done courses in Management , as well as an Industrial Engineering Course. He was employed at Ardmona Fruit Products, from 1960, as a Production Manager, until amalgamation with SPC in 2002.
He was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 1997, which meant he spent 4 months researching in England, Europe and America. He has published three reports, one book on Aseptics, one on Processing, and another on Packaging.
Jim was a Committee Member of the GV Centre for the Intellectually Handicapped, beginning in 1960. He was made a Life Member in 1997, and was president in 1983.
Jim is an Inaugural Member and Life Member of the Apex Club of Mooroopna, as well as Inaugural Member ,(1978), and past President of the Kiwanis Club of Mooroopna, and remained a member until his death in 2017.
Jim was Secretary of the Mooroopna Post Primary School Investigational Committee He ensured that the people responsible for the allocation of the New High Schools, received an enormous proliferation of letters, which reinforced the need for the High School in Mooroopna. Jim received a Certificate of Recognition in acknowledgement of his achievement in supporting Education in Victoria, and to commemorate his outstanding contribution to Education in Victoria.
He was a member on the Kindergarten Committee, involved in the establishment of the Senior Citizens Clubrooms in Mooroopna, was pat Chairman of the Recreation Reserve Committee of Management, and a committee Member, of the Mooroopna Swimming Pool Committee.
Jim was behind the establishment of the Mooroopna Guide and Scout Complex.
He toured Red China in 1981, was a member of U3A in Shepparton, was a member of the Mooroopna Lodge, and promoted ‘Clean Up Australia Day’ in our community for many years.
Jim was the Australia Day Awardee in Mooroopna, given by the Shire of Mooroopna.
And most importantly to the Museum, Jim was behind the establishment of the Historical Society of Mooroopna in 1983, and was its First President.
An interesting fact about Jim
The Shire of Rodney named the Park in Echuca Road, Mooroopna the J.A. Douglass Park in 1983.
Mr Leon Roy Williams, AFSM OAM
Leon Williams was an outstanding member of the Mooroopna Community. He was the chairman of the Mooroopna Recreation Reserve for 21 Years, treasurer for 8 years, and a Member of the Management Committee since 1967.
He was the Area Manager for the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal, for many years, beginning in 1976.
Leon was a Councillor at St Mary’s Primary School for 16 years, and a board member of Mooroopna Water and Sewerage Authority for 8 years, as well as a member of the Mooroopna Apex Club for 10 years, including time as Chairman.
Leon’s contribution to the CFA was outstanding. He was with the Mooroopna CFA for the Country Fire Authority VUFBA State Championships in 2012, and Secretary in 1988,1992,1998 & 2005. As well, he was Secretary of the Mooroopna Urban Fire Brigade since 1967, and a member since 1955, as well as being a Life Member. He was a member of the Country Fire Authority District 22, for 34 years, and Chairman for 14 years.
Leon’s contribution to sport in Mooroopna was also outstanding. He was a member of the Sir Ian McLennan Sports Centre Board since 1980, and Chairman from 1990- ? He was President of the Mooroopna Junior Football Club for 10 years, Chairman of the Mooroopna Memorial Swimming Pool for 8 years, and a member for 20 years. He served as Treasurer of the Shepparton Junior Football League for 12 years, and the Delegate for 15 years, as well as being a Life Member. He was also Delegate for the Goulburn Murray Football District Board for 6 years. Leon was a member of the Mooroopna Football Club Board from 1978-1990.
Awards & Recognition include:
Australian Fire Service Medal 2007
Citizen of the year, Rodney Shire Council, 1993.
Grandstand named in his honour at the Mooroopna Recreation Reserve.
Awarded an OBE in the 2014 Australia Days Awards.
Mr D. M. McLennan
Leading Mooroopna citizen (1874-1939)
Mr Donald Munro McLennan was one of the most prominent citizens of Mooroopna, who had taken an active part in the business, public and social life of the town, and was managing director of McLennan and Co. Pty. Ltd. Flour Mill. He was also well known, at Gilgandra, first visiting there in the early 1900’s, when he purchased “Weenoona". In the intervening years he paid annual visits to Gilgandra.
He had a wife, four daughters, and one son, Mr D. B. McLennan, residing at “Mentone,”‘ Gilgandra. He had capably conducted the Mooroopna Flour Mills, one of Mooroopna’s largest industries, for many years. Donald was the first white child born in Mundoona, and had a life-time association with the district. He was an authority on the early history of the Goulburn Valley and was the author of “The History of Mooroopna, Ardmona and District,” published at the time of the “Back to Mooroopna” in 1936, and “The Jubilee History of District Presbyterian Churches” published the following year.
Born at Mundoona, now part of Undera in 1874, the late Mr. McLennan was the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. D. M. McLennan, and was baptised at the first Presbyterian service in Undera. The service was held in his parents’ kitchen. In his younger days, Mr McLennan joined the staff of the National Bank, where he had risen to a responsible position at head office when he resigned to join his brother, Mr William McLennan, in the management of the Mooroopna Flour Mill, which had been conducted by their father since 1886. No citizen had ever rendered Mooroopna district better service than Donald McLennan, who had been prominent in almost every public activity for thirty years. He was particularly interested in the beautification of the town, and was instrumental in the provision of the gardens in the main street. Always fond of trees and flowers, he was a keen rosarian. Only a few days before his death, at the opening of the Mooroopna tennis courts, he discussed plans for further beautification of the courts. He was a lover of roses, and contributed several articles on their culture to leading papers, and acted as a judge at many shows. For many years, until indifferent health caused his retirement, he represented Mooroopna in Rodney Shire Council, and was president for many years. He was a member of the Mechanics Institute committee, and the Board of Management of the Presbyterian Church, and had been president of the Goulburn Valley Highland Pipe Band since its inception. He was also a member of the Board of Mill Owners’ Association of Victoria.
Donald was in ill-health for some years before he passed away, but his sudden death came as a shock to a wide circle of friends. His contribution to Mooroopna was outstanding.
Geoff is a local Mooroopna Community member, and a current member of The Historical Society of Mooroopna. He was awarded the 2003/2004 Gordon Rothacker medallist for outstanding and sustained contribution to the Victorian harness racing industry. More recently, Geoff was named the 2016 Mooroopna Citizen of the Year.
Jimmy Little, AO
James Oswald 'Jimmy' Little, AO (1937 - 2012)
Jimmy Little was an Australian musician, actor and teacher from the Yorta Yorta people. He was raised on the Cummerangunja Mission, in ?? In the 1970’s he co-starred with Marty Robbins at the Mooroopna (Vic) Country Music.
Jimmy was the first Indigenous Australian to receive mainstream musical success. He had 10 top singles in Australia, and is one of Australia’s most decorated musicians within Country music, Pop music and as a gospel singer. He is honoured by being listed in the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame. Some of his songs are “Royal Telephone” ,“Under the Milky Way” and “Black Fella/White Fella”.
Clint is a champion piper , (bagpipes), from Mooroopna. Here are some of his accomplishments.
2001 – At 7 years of age, commenced playing the bagpipes.
2002 – Placed 2nd at Daylesford Highland Games. Shortly after, was asked to join the Golden City Pipe Band in Bendigo, by tutor Heather Hudson.
2006 – New Zealand National Championship. 2007 – Novice Victorian Champion.
2009 – New Zealand National Championship. He has as since played with the University of Ballarat Pipe Band.
2012 – B Grade Victorian Champion.
2013-2013 - Piper of the Year 2013 – He is playing with the Moorabbin City Pipe Band.
Clint continues to compete in solo competitions, winning many. He currently competes in A Grade, the highest level in Australian competitions. Clint is an outstanding member of the community, offering his services to Relay for Life, Anzac and Rememberance Day services, as well as weddings, funerals and many other community events.
Mr Martin Cussen, M.L.A
Mr Cussen was the first and only member of the Parliament of Victoria from Mooroopna. He was the first president of the Shire of Rodney from 1886-1887.
The following is an extract from his obituary, that ran in the Barrier Miner paper (Broken Hill) on August 3, 1911 following his death.
DEATH OF MR. MARTIN CUSSEN, M.L.A.
Deep regret will be expressed at the death of Hr. Martin Cussen. M.L.A., yesterday, says the “Argus’ of. July 31. Mr. Cussen, who was 75 year’s of age, was born at Rathkeale, in the County of Limerick, Ireland, and moved to Victoria - in 1851. While employed by the Hobson’s Bay Railway Company as a guard, he met with an accident, which resulted in a fractured leg, and he retired. He then engaged in mining pursuits for some years in the vicinity of Dunolly, and then in New Zealand. In 1874 he took up land at Mooroopna, and eventually founded the auctioneering firm of Martin Cussen and Co. He was for many years the chairman of the Rodney Irrigation Trust and president of the Shire of Waranga. Mr. Cussen entered the State Parliament as a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Province. On the dissolution of the Bent Ministry he successfully contested the Waranga seat in the “Legislative Assembly”. He left a widow and family of eight grown-up children. Two of his sons, Messrs. Michael and Robin Cussen, are well known auctioneers in Tatura and Shepparton. His youngest son, Mr. Leo Cussen, is a barrister in Melbourne. The body was conveyed from his late residence, San~ Remo, Victoria road, Auburn, to the Spencer-street station, and thence to Mooroopna.
William Cooper - Aboriginal Activist, 1861 - 1941
William Cooper is counted among the righteous who saved the Jews during the Holocaust. In late 1938, this elder statesman of the aboriginal rights movement delivered a letter of protest to the German Consulate in Melbourne as synagogues burnt across Germany.
Initially William Cooper worked as a coachman for Melbourne politician John O’Shannassy, and also as a rural labourer from 1884 at Maloga mission, near Echuca. He was a member of the Australian Workers Union. He joined with Doug Nicholls and Bill Onus and lobbied for Aborigines’ political representation through the Australian Aborigines League. William Cooper was a pioneering Aboriginal Christian of the Yorta Yorta tribe of the Murray River in south-east Australia. William lived and breathed the history of his people and worked for their “uplift” as he called it.
Despite granting Aboriginal people land at Cummeragunja, the Government still played a role in the oppression and isolation of Yorta Yorta people on the reserve. By the 1930’s the conditions on the reserve had not improved and the residents continued to live in an appalling state at the hands of the New South Wales Protection Board. About 170 of the reserves 300 residents were crammed into 20 two-roomed houses. Residents were educated to third grade standard and were given inadequate rations that resulted in malnutrition and increased susceptibility to disease. In November 1938 William Cooper, (a Yorta Yorta man who was involved in Melbourne with the Aborigines Advancement League), demanded that the conditions at Cummeragunja be improved and that an inquiry be set in motion. His demands went unheard, and the Cummeragunja Walk-Off resulted .The Cummeragunja Walk-Off occurred in February, 1939. It was the first mass strike co-ordinated by Indigenous people in Australia. The residents of Cummeragunja defied the authorities by striking and walking off the reserve leaving for the surrounding areas of Mooroopna, Shepparton, Echuca and Barmah. The Aborigines Protection Board who administered the station remained silent and unmoved by the conditions of Indigenous residents.
Alf (Uncle Boydie) Turner, his Nephew, delivered a speech in honour of William Cooper in State Parliament, Melbourne. He has his own memorial and garden at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Seventy trees are planted in his memory. There is also a display in Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre. The "William Cooper Justice Centre” is on the corner of William and Lonsdale Streets, Melbourne.
A function was held by the Jewish Community Council of Victoria Inc.,(JCCV), in the Queen’s Hall, Parliament House, Melbourne on Tuesday 2 December 2008, where Mr. John Searle and Mr. Boydie Turner, having been invited as representitives of the Jewish and Indigenous community, honoured Mr William Cooper in opposing Nazism.
William’s nephew, Uncle Boydie, (or Alf Turner) and Kevin Russell, (Alf’s nephew) went in December 2011 to, of all places, Israel, where William was honoured by Tad Vashem Holocaust Museum for having led the only private protest anywhere in the world against Kristallnacht. It was the Night of Broken Glass when Jewish people were killed and their homes, businesses and synagogues were attacked in 1938 by the Nazis in Germany.
Below is an extract from the media about the 2008 function:
Israel honours Aboriginal elder for defying Nazis, December 4 2008: Jewish Community Council of Victoria – Tribute to William Cooper at state Parliament in Melbourne to recognize William Cooper’s protest in 1908 against the cruel persecution of the Jews. Some 300 Jewish and Aboriginal leaders attended. William Cooper is counted among the righteous who saved the Jews during the Holocaust. In late 1938, this elder statesman of the aboriginal rights movement delivered a letter of protest to the German Consulate in Melbourne as synagogues burnt across Germany….”
Wiiliam Cooper died 29th March, 1941 in Mooroopna, and is buried at the Cummeragunja Cemetery in Barmah. A now famous portrait of William Cooper can be seen on the outside wall of the Goulburn Valley Water building in Shepparton, Victoria.
Matron Elsie Jones
Matron Elsie Jones, OBE, 1883 - 1972
Nurse and Matron, Elsie Jones, (Staff Nurse AANS), of Mooroopna and Mooroopna Base Hospital.
Born in 1883 in Mooroopna, Elsie was the daughter of William JONES and Eliza (nee KITCHEN), and sister to Mrs A J Hicks. Elsie Jones trained at Mooroopna Base hospital before being appointed Matron of the hospital in 1912. She held that post until she enlisted on May 25th,1917. Elsie embarked on 12th June 1917 ,per “Mooltan”, Service in Solonika. She returned to Australia per “Dorset” 29 April 1919. She resumed the position when she returned in 1919 and remained until retiring in 1957. In 1945, Ms Jones was recognised with the Award of the Order of the British Empire.
At the Museum, Barry Campbell from the Historical Society of Mooroopna, has documented the details of the 22 nurses who were trained at Mooroopna, and then served overseas during the First World War. Elsie Jones was one of these nurses.
Elsie did not marry, and died on 5th August 1972, in Brighton, Victoria. She had resided in East Brighton at the time.
The Elsie Jones Education Centre at Goulburn Valley Health is named after her, as is Elsie Jones Drive in Mooroopna.
Sir Douglas Nicholls
Pastor Sir Douglas Nicholls, KCV OBE MBE, 1906 - 1988
Sir Douglas Nicholls had an auspicious and ground breaking career as a sportsman, Minister of Religion and Governor of South Australia. He played football with Carlton, Fitzroy and Northcote, and was the first Aboriginal player to be selected to play for the Victorian Interstate Team. After retiring as a player, he coached Northcote as a non-playing coach. Sir Douglas was the 28th Governor of South Australia from 1/12/1976 – 30/04/1977. He was a prominent Aboriginal Australian from the Yorta Yorta people. He was a professional athlete, a Churches of Christ pastor and church planter, ceremonial officer and a pioneering campaigner for reconciliation.
Nicholls was the first Aboriginal to be knighted and also the first appointed to vice-regal office, until resigning due to poor health. He was even named King of Moomba. He was born at Cummeragunga Reserve and died in Mooroopna at our Museum when it was a nursing home in 1973. Sir Douglas Nicholls was buried at Cummeragunja mission in New South Wales, near Barmah Victoria. The service was taken by Mooroopna Church of Christ Pastor, Denis Atkinson.
Douglas was born on the 9th of December, 1906. He married Gladys Nicholls, the widow of his brother Howard Nicholls (1905-1942), who died of injuries sustained in a car accident. Gladys already had 3 children, and she and Douglas were married for 39 years and raised their combined six children. Died June 4th, 1988.
Football provided employment for Douglas during the winter. He earned a living the rest of the year, boxing with Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Troupe, running races. In 1928 he won the Waracaknabeal Gift. Douglas was the Inaugural chairman of the National Aboriginal Sports Foundation, and was an adept boomerang thrower. He was Minister and a social worker with Aboriginal people, and officiated at church and hymn services as a lay preacher at the Gore St. Mission Centre in Fitzroy. He became pastor of the first Aboriginal Church of Christ in Australia, and was then ordained as a Minister of the Gospel. In 1957 he became field officer for the Aborigines Advancement League. Sir Douglas drew Aboriginal issues to the attention of Government officials and the general public. He pleaded dignity for Aboriginal people as human beings.