I acknowledge the Traditional Owners on whose land I walk, I work and I live. I pay my respects to Elders past, present and future.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Vale Dr. Evelyn Scott AO

Ingham, like any small town, despite its rural location and small population, has produced many great people over the time who have gone out into the wider world and left their mark. These have come from all walks of life and backgrounds. A good number have been Indigenous Australians and descendants of the indentured Melanesians labourers brought to Queensland to work on the sugar plantations.  
One such, was Dr. Evelyn Scott (formerly Backo), an activist for equality, and for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.  Dr. Scott passed away in September at the age of 81. She was farewelled on Friday October 6 in Townsville at a State Funeral. Fittingly, the accolades, tributes and memories of a remarkable woman flowed.
Dr. Scott attributed her achievements to the values imparted by her family and her childhood spent in the Herbert River Valley. Here she recalled experiencing “tolerance and acceptance of all peoples;” very different to what she encountered when she left. Those differing experiences shaped the activist she was to become.
Her political activism began with her initial involvement with the Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advancement League in the 1960s. She went on to actively campaign for a YES vote at the 1967 Referendum as a member of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI). In the late 1990s, she held the chairmanship of the National Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. She was instrumental in the establishment of Aboriginal legal services, housing societies and medical services and was on numerous government advisory bodies. Her achievements include being made an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia, a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal and an Australian Achiever Award, and being named a Queensland Great.  She was also awarded two honorary doctorates.
Her life and work were underpinned by the simple but powerful philosophy that her son, Sam Backo, recalls Dr Scott instilling in her children: "There's only one race and that's the human race."
Sources: Abraham Rhea. “Indigenous activist Evelyn Scott hailed as key freedom fighter at state funeral in Townsville.” ABC News, October 6, 2017. Accessed October 11, 2017.                                               
“Dedication earns doctorate,” Herbert River Express, May 9, 2000.

Vidonja Balanzategui Bianka. The Herbert River Story. Ingham: Hinchinbrook Shire Council, 2011.
Source: National Museum Australia

Marchers during the May Day 1968 procession in Brisbane holding placard. (F3400 Grahame Garner Collection, image 39 Fryer Library, University of Queensland)

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