Great Moments in Indigenous History

Senator Bonner Makes a Fool of Himself in Canberra

Senator Neville Bonner 1922 - 1999

Neville Bonner was the first Aboriginal person to sit in Federal Parliament as a Senator for Queensland from 1971 to 1983. Surprisingly, he was a member of the Liberal Party, and therefore was a political conservative in the era of Black Power.

Bonner proved to be a pugnacious opponent of Aboriginal self-determination and the Black Power movement. Despite a decade as a Senator, his political career was largely forgettable, and one of his most notorious moments came when he first arrived in Canberra in 1971

For some strange reason Bonner decided upon his arrival at Parliament House to display his authenticity as an Aborigine by bunging on an impromptu boomerang tossing exhibition.

Thus, before an excited audience of journalists and photographers Bonner walked out the front of Parliament House and started throwing around some boomerangs. This all went swimmingly until the inevitable happened.

One of Neville's boomerangs didn't come back, and in fact lodged itself uncooperatively in a Canberra tree.

To the shock and amusement of the assembled Canberra reporters and photographers, Bonner doffed his suit jacket and climbed in to the tree to retreive the pesky boomerang. This resulted in the sequence of photos below and much jesting by black activists that the good Senator had 'just come down out of the trees!'

Bonner will ultimately be remembered as Australia's first Aboriginal member of Federal Parliament, but not much else.

Click on pics below to see enlargement