NATIONALISTS: Elizabeth McKenzie and John J Moloney

Research By Professor John Maynard on Episode 4

Elizabeth McKenzie Hatton a white missionary and known to Aboriginal people as “Mrs. Mac” truly deserves recognition as one of the great campaigners and supporters of Aboriginal rights. Hatton had a traumatic young life. Her first husband Jim McKenzie was taken by a shark attack at Bundaberg, she lost her young daughter Hope to sickness and her son Stewart died of wounds suffered during the Great War. During the 1920s she would align herself with the prominent Aboriginal leadership of the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association Fred Maynard, Sid Ridgeway, Tom Lacey and Dick Johnson. Hatton would be a prominent writer in the press demanding Aboriginal rights to land, protecting their children, that Aboriginal people should be placed in charge of Aboriginal affairs and defending a distinct Aboriginal cultural identity. She would with the Aboriginal leadership establish a home ‘Rehoboth’ at Homebush in Sydney for young Aboriginal girl who ran away from white employers. For her stance alongside the Aboriginal activists Hatton herself would be a target of the authorities.

John J Moloney – Like McKenzie Hatton John J. Moloney was a man and thinker decades ahead of his time. He was the editor of the Newcastle newspaper the Voice of the North and would provide the Aboriginal leaders with constant editorial space in his paper. He was a fierce nationalist and a member of the Australian Natives Association who during the 1920s-lent support to Aboriginal rights. Moloney hosted visits of the Aboriginal leaders to Newcastle and had Fred Maynard deliver lectures and addresses at the Longworth Institute in Newcastle.

In the lead, up to Australia Day 2017 a media encouraged debate erupted over the 26 January continuing as the date to celebrate Australia’s Day. The national website for Australia Day declared that it was the day that brings the country “together as a nation to celebrate what’s great about Australia and being Australian”. But from an Indigenous perspective it is a day of infamy and recognition of invasion, occupation, dispossession and cultural destruction. Additionally, Australia today is not the Australia of the 1950s with White Australia still firmly locked in place. Many nationalities share and make up this 21st century nation and many of the new arrivals over the course of the past fifty years don’t feel welcome as part of this celebration day. Many of them are made very aware that they are not ‘truly’ Australian. There was a mobilising of a change the date campaign to move the anniversary of the nation away from the arrival of the First Fleet. But despite sparking widespread media comment and condemnation the one change argument lacked one main ingredient – an alternative date. First things first to clear up some misinformation 26 January does not signify the arrival of the First Fleet on these shores. The British fleet had arrived on the 18 January at Botany Bay but found the location unsuitable and it was not until 1946 that all states and territories adopted the current ‘Australia Day’ as the name for the 26th January celebrations

Is the move to change Australia Day from the 26 January a recent and contemporary debate? What of the past and records long forgotten what do they tell us?  On the 7 March 1925, the Australian Natives Association held their annual conference in Sydney. The A.N.A was a fiercely nationalistic all white organisation and proclaimed membership be restricted to only those Australian born. They also demanded that only native born Australians should represent the Commonwealth or state at home or abroad. They also looked to amend the constitution moving that all Governors should be native born Australians. It is very significant that at this conference the A.N.A requested that the holiday at the time known as Anniversary Day be scrapped from the list of holidays and that ‘the Sunday falling upon April 25, or the next Sunday following that date be observed as “ANZAC Day”, and the following Monday be recognised as “Australia Day”. Even more radical the A.N.A demanded recognition that Aboriginal people should be recognised as Australia’s greatest asset. That the Federal government be requested to take control of Aboriginal affairs away from the states and to arrange for the repatriation of Aboriginal people upon their own land. It comes as no surprise to me that the A.N.A could be more than ninety years ahead in thinking as the treasurer was one John. J. Moloney. Moloney was a man who was greatly influenced by some very prominent early Aboriginal activists including my grandfather Fred Maynard. Moloney was a Newcastle newspaper editor and gave much space and coverage to Aboriginal people and issues. In a 1927 letter, he vividly outlines his anger over the treatment of Aboriginal people:

The inequity of the position maddens me. To see these poor creatures kicked into the bush, worse than dogs, their homes built by their own hands, confiscated, no compensation, no redress, their children kidnapped by the Crown, robbed and derided by all parties. Every church equally to blame, Priests, Bishops, Parsons, all equally guilty. No Aborigines wanted in any church, whilst God’s own creatures cry for food and shelter of which they have been robbed… If I were in London, I think I would try and get an audience with the King.

Moloney was strongly supported by a white missionary woman Elizabeth McKenzie Hatton in the fight to support Aboriginal justice. Hatton lost her first husband to a shark attack, her daughter to illness at the age of ten and her son died of wounds suffered on the Western Front. She wrote and spoke tirelessly in support of mothers, wives and loved ones who lost family members in the Great War. She also became a great supporter of Aboriginal and Islander rights. Former Prime Minister John Howard has argued that “Australians of the current generation should not be required to accept blame for past policies over which they had no control.”[1] Yet McKenzie Hatton, writing in 1926, could almost be replying to Howard across the decades by stating: [2]

We may claim that we are not responsible for the actions of the original British invaders who violated their homes, shot, poisoned, burned and mutilated the natives, but we cannot claim immunity from the conditions existing at the present time, and what should not be tolerated for one moment longer than it will take to rectify matters. The citizens comfortably situated on the shores of Port Jackson are, in the main absolutely ignorant of the conditions under which the natives are existing. The moment this sore is opened up. There will be a rush of apologists from the ranks of parliamentarians, parsons, priests, pedagogues, pedants, and peripatetic philosophers, but such belated excuses will be brushed aside, for the fiat has gone forth—JUSTICE TO THE NATIVES—and the people of Australia will not be satisfied until that full measure of compensation has been accorded to a much injured and sadly wronged people.

This illustrates across over 90 years how, in the contemporary setting, the failure to accept any blame or responsibility has continued unabated, notwithstanding Paul Keating’s 1992 Redfern speech and Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations Aboriginal suffering, inequality and disadvantage continues into the 21st century. Sadly, the country is yet to learn or come to terms with the past. For their part both Moloney and Hatton were targets of investigations and harassment. Moloney died in 1938 and Hatton in 1944.

[1] Howard, 2010:277.

[2] McKenzie Hatton, The Daylight, 30 October 1926.