Wilson Family Scholarship in memory of William Cooper

William Cooper (1860-1941)

A Yorta Yorta man, William Cooper, was a human rights activist who dedicated his life to fighting for indigenous rights. In December 1938 he led a protest to the German consulate in Melbourne condemning the treatment of Jews under Nazi rule.

In 2013, in appreciation for the courageous protest of William Cooper, the Wilson family generously inaugurated a scholarship for indigenous students studying at the tertiary level.

While visiting the museum, members of the family viewed a display dedicated to William Cooper. As supporters of the MHM with a passion for helping indigenous youth, they envisaged a scholarship in William Cooper’s memory that would assist indigenous students in a practical way during their academic years. The MHM saw the scholarship as an extension of its work in the community.

Belonging, culture, respect and history

The MHM has had a long association with the indigenous community because of a history of parallels and intersections with the experiences of the Jewish community. Both communities have strong connections with their land. Also, Jewish tribes and Aboriginal groups foster a strong sense of belonging, culture, respect and history.

Members of the Aboriginal community frequently visit the centre particularly for contemplation. Many see the MHM as a place of healing and associate the pain that indigenous Australians have endured with the pain endured by Holocaust survivors.

Valued relationship

Today we enjoy regular visits from Galiamble Men’s Recovery Centre and indigenous students from schools across the state. We value this relationship and the opportunity to talk about the contribution of both communities to each other.

In 2013, the MHM held a smoking ceremony with the traditional owners of the land on which the MHM stands. This ceremony was another milestone in the developing relationship between the Melbourne Holocaust Museum, the survivors, the Jewish Community and the Aboriginal people.


Re-enactment of the Kristallnacht protest by an Aboriginal leader, William Cooper.


Reenactment of aboriginal leader, William Cooper’s Kristallnacht protest

Indigenous smoking Ceremony at the MHM in 2013

Aboriginal activist

Aboriginal Australians are proud of the courage of an Aboriginal activist, William Cooper, whose story was rediscovered by the Melbourne Holocaust Museum. Cooper’s work further cemented the relationship of the MHM with Aboriginal people. More recently Cooper’s human rights contribution has been acknowledged by the Victorian Government with a mention in Parliament and the naming of significant buildings around Melbourne.

The scholarship began at Deakin and Monash Universities in 2013 with whom the MHM has collaborated for a number of years. The first recipients were announced in 2014. The success of this program prompted the Wilson family to extend the scholarships to Melbourne University and RMIT.

Thank you

We would like to thank the Wilson family – Dennis & Tauba Wilson and Nick and Nina Yates – for their passionate and innovative support. Many thanks also to the staff at our partner universities for facilitating these important scholarships.

For further information, please visit the following websites.