Now Margaret Tucker lived until she was 92 years old, so this blog entry can’t possibly cover everything there is to be said about her, her life or her experience. As always, I am just highlighting a wonderful person in our history who may not be well known by you. Enjoy!
I have an inbuilt curiosity to learn about the experiences of people, I love every moment of finding out about people that are different to me and storing the information away to ponder on and consider later. When I read about the lived experience of our nation’s first people growing up in the early 1900s, there is a striking pause point where I simply have to stop and consider how truly disconnected I am from that experience, how I am lacking so many little pieces of information to give me a full picture, how I will never truly understand. How infuriating it is that so often I can’t see the details because my readily accessible history has been curated by people who time and again have chosen other voices, whiter voices, to be at the forefront of the pages.
Every person’s voice is critically important in history, this is part of why I write this blog. Every person’s achievements deserve telling. I connect to Margaret Tucker as a woman, but I am never going to know the true feeling of what it was to be her. The time I have lived in, the colour of my skin, so many things separate me fundamentally from Tucker in a way that I cannot mend, but that I can acknowledge, sit with and reflect on.
At the age of 12, Tucker’s life took a turn that happened far too often, and is never to be understated. Forcibly removed from her family to be placed in the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls, her life commenced a new chapter without any say from her, landing her in servitude to white families and dragging her away from her connection to family, community and culture.
Tucker, by all accounts, was a tireless fighter. She worked, she had a child with her husband, she began volunteering her time to activist movements for aboriginal rights. Whether it was as one of the founding members and treasurer of the Australian Aborigines League, or the creation of the National Day of Mourning to replace Australia Day on 26 January 1938, she seemed incapable of stopping in her efforts to give voices to those who didn’t have them, often having to build the platforms from the ground up to give that opportunity.
“Over the years Margaret Tucker won the respect of people because of her refusal to be embittered by the injustices and wrongs done to her people. Her philosophy was to go on fighting to put the wrongs right. This she did quietly but resolutely, even though, as a victim of the pre-World War II NSW Aboriginal system, she had every right to be bitter.”https://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/tucker-margaret-elizabeth-auntie-marge-1556
Margaret Tucker truly seems like the kind of woman that you would be grabbed by, swept up by, brought along by.
I love thinking about how engaging she must have been. She was awarded the MBE (Order of British Merit) due to the hard work she did for the welfare of aboriginal Australians. She worked in a munitions factory during World War II. The tenacity and wonder of her is fabulous and each bit I learn about her makes me a little bit happier.
I look forward to reading her book, If Everyone Cared. I will be sure to come back with a book review when I get through it. Without hearing from her more directly just yet, I can’t make an assessment around whether she persisted and flourished despite of, or because of, her early life experienced. Either way, she did it well and with passion, and her selfless actions were rewarded again and again. More than the accolades I read about, it is the respect with which she written about and the care with which her history is retold.
Just before I go: While I am, quite honestly, not fully informed enough to comment in detail on this, I do also acknowledge that today we still see the removal of far too many aboriginal children from their family units and placed into care systems such as foster care. Put under the banner or guise of “intervention” or “concern”, there are systemic cultural and social practices that reflect continued bias and racism that needs to be addressed.