"Aunty Eleanor Harding was a respected community figure who poured her energy into achieving a better deal for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. She was especially passionate about women's issues and education.
Eleanor was born in 1934 on Erub Island in the Torres Strait. Her mother, Emma Pitt, was Miriam Mer, from the Torres Strait. Her father, Fred Nain, was Guku, from Cape York, Queensland. Eleanor was the youngest of four siblings.
Eleanor's father was killed while working on a pearl lugger when she was eight years old. Not long after she lost her mother she moved from the islands to the mainland to live with her grandmother. They lived in several Aboriginal communities around Cape York, including Old Mapoon and Mona Mona, before settling at the Bloomfield River Mission — known today as Wujal Wujal.
At the time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Queensland were subjected to some of the most severe laws in Australia, with nearly all aspects of their lives controlled by state authorities. In 1956, Eleanor moved to Melbourne in the hope that she might give her children a better life.
After a brief stay in South Yarra, she settled in Fitzroy, where Aboriginal families occupied many of the suburb's boarding houses and flats. Life was not without its struggles. However, Eleanor quickly ingratiated herself with the poor but close-knit community.
What the residents of Fitzroy lacked in material wealth they more than made up for in goodwill. Neighbours were known to share food and watch each other's children. When Eleanor purchased the first toaster in her building, it quickly became a communal appliance used by all the tenants. Locals socialised at fortnightly dances held at Collingwood Town Hall, where Eleanor performed with a group known as the Fitzroy Dancing Girls.
Motivated by the hardship she saw around her, Eleanor worked alongside other dedicated individuals to help fulfil some of the basic needs of the Aboriginal community. She opened her heart to the most neglected, regularly visiting Aboriginal men and women incarcerated in Melbourne's prisons. She would bring them supplies like coffee and biscuits, paid for out of her own pocket, as well as a sympathetic ear.
During the 1960s, Eleanor was involved in a national campaign to secure equal rights for Indigenous Australians, as a member of the Aborigines Advancement League and the Victorian branch of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI). She was part of the latter's push for constitutional change, which resulted in the 1967 Referendum. Eleanor sold badges and distributed pamphlets to educate the public on what the vote's success would mean. It proved a symbolic win in the long fought battle for Indigenous rights.
Eleanor was an executive member of the National Aboriginal and Islander Women's Council. During Bicentennial celebrations in 1970, to mark the landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay, the Council organised for busloads of women to travel to Sydney and participate in a peaceful protest to highlight what the historic moment meant for Indigenous Australians. In 1972, they travelled to Canberra in support of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
Like many Indigenous women of her generation, Eleanor made her home available to those in need and would regularly provide short-term care to children who would otherwise be institutionalised. When Aboriginal people came to Fitzroy in search of missing relatives, she would assist them in finding their loved ones.
Despite having left school at a young age, Eleanor recognised the value of education. She was a supporter of Abschol, a program set up in the 1960s to raise money for scholarships for Aboriginal students, which later evolved into the federal Abstudy scheme. All Eleanor's children went on to complete higher education with her encouragement and support. Many of them are high profile figures in the arts and Aboriginal affairs today.
She sat on the board of several key Aboriginal-run organisations, including the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and the Aborigines Advancement League. In 1978, Eleanor joined the Victorian Department of Community Services where she worked principally with victims of domestic violence. Concerned about homelessness among young Aboriginal women, Eleanor joined with others to set up the Margaret Tucker Hostel in 1983. She worked there voluntarily until ongoing government funding was secured.
As a respected Elder, Eleanor was a valued founding member of the Victorian Aboriginal Catholic Council, which later became the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry. In 1992, she helped establish the Victorian Wongai Torres Strait Islander Corporation. A memorial award is presented in her name each year at the Victorian Indigenous Performing Arts Awards. She passed away in 1996 and was buried on Erub Island.
Aunty Eleanor is remembered with great affection as an integral part of the Indigenous rights movement in Victoria. Her message was a simple but potent one: respect each other and be proud of who you are"
The Aunty Eleanor Harding Tutoring Program is a one on one learning support program delivered to First Nations Primary School aged students. Students in the program are referred through a support worker.
The Tutoring Program is currently offered to students in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, referral via the Koori Engagement Co-ordinator.
Books n Boots will provide the student with one hourly face-to-face learning support each week for a period of 12 weeks.
Books n Boots would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live, work, and learn. We would like to pay respect to elders past, present, and emerging and recognise that sovereignty has never been ceded.
It always was and always will be Aboriginal land
Copyright Books n Boots 2020. All rights reserved
Books n Boots is a registered charity with DGR 1 status. All gift donations are tax-deductible
Books n Boots Inc is committed to providing quality services to you and this policy outlines our ongoing obligations to you in respect of how we manage your Personal Information.
We have adopted the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) contained in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (the Privacy Act). The NPPs govern the way in which we collect, use, disclose, store, secure and dispose of your Personal Information.
A copy of the Australian Privacy Principles may be obtained from the website of The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner at www.aoic.gov.au
What is Personal Information and why do we collect it?
Personal Information is information or an opinion that identifies an individual. Examples of Personal Information we collect include: names, addresses, email addresses, phone and facsimile numbers. This Personal Information is obtained in many ways including [interviews, correspondence, by telephone and facsimile, by email, via our website www.booksnboots.org.au, from media and publications, from other publicly available sources, from cookies- delete all that aren’t applicable] and from third parties. We don’t guarantee website links or policy of authorised third parties.
We collect your Personal Information for the primary purpose of providing our services to you, providing information to our clients and marketing. We may also use your Personal Information for secondary purposes closely related to the primary purpose, in circumstances where you would reasonably expect such use or disclosure. You may unsubscribe from our mailing/marketing lists at any time by contacting us in writing. When we collect Personal Information we will, where appropriate and where possible, explain to you why we are collecting the information and how we plan to use it.
Sensitive information is defined in the Privacy Act to include information or opinion about such things as an individual's racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, membership of a political association, religious or philosophical beliefs, membership of a trade union or other professional body, criminal record or health information.
Sensitive information will be used by us only:
• For the primary purpose for which it was obtained
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Where reasonable and practicable to do so, we will collect your Personal Information only from you. However, in some circumstances we may be provided with information by third parties. In such a case we will take reasonable steps to ensure that you are made aware of the information provided to us by the third party.
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Your Personal Information may be disclosed in a number of circumstances including the following:
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Your Personal Information is stored in a manner that reasonably protects it from misuse and loss and from unauthorized access, modification or disclosure.
When your Personal Information is no longer needed for the purpose for which it was obtained, we will take reasonable steps to destroy or permanently de-identify your Personal Information. However, most of the Personal Information is or will be stored in client files which will be kept by us for a minimum of 7 years.
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You may access the Personal Information we hold about you and to update and/or correct it, subject to certain exceptions. If you wish to access your Personal Information, please contact us in writing.
Books n Boots Inc will not charge any fee for your access request, but may charge an administrative fee for providing a copy of your Personal Information.
In order to protect your Personal Information we may require identification from you before releasing the requested information.
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It is important to us that your Personal Information is up to date. We will take reasonable steps to make sure that your Personal Information is accurate, complete and up-to-date. If you find that the information we have is not up to date or is inaccurate, please advise us as soon as practicable so we can update our records and ensure we can continue to provide quality services to you.
This Policy may change from time to time and is available on our website.
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