Ngadjuri ex and change-maker Vincent Copley has died aged 85

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Ngadjuri Elder and activist Vincent (Vince) Copley passed away peacefully at his home in Goolwa on the Murray River in South Australia.

Mr. Copley was surrounded by his relatives at the time of his death.

NITV News has permission from her family to use her name and images.

Mr. Copley grew up in a care facility.

When he was 10, his mother took him to live at St Francis Anglican Home in Port Adelaide, where he met other First Nations people, including Charles Perkins, Gordon Briscoe and John Moriarty.

Mr. Copley was part of an amazing group that would achieve excellence in education and sport and use that determination to lead the campaign for change in Australia.

Yanyuwa John Moriarty is the first Indigenous person to be selected for the Australian national football team.

In paying tribute to his late friend, Mr Moriarty described the strong bond the group formed growing up at St Francis Anglican Home before becoming leading activists.

“It is a sad loss for us boys who lived with him and grew up with him and shared the same problems in a racist neighborhood,” Mr. Moriarty said.

“These connections have allowed us to have a good life in general and we still enjoy it today.

“To Vince, we thank you very much for your friendship… we miss him very much.”

In a lifetime of service, Mr. Copley visited almost every Aboriginal community in Australia.

In 1965, he joined Charles Perkins on the 15-day bus trip through the New South Wales area known as the Freedom Ride which brought international attention to the treatment and conditions of life of the aborigines.

In his early days, Mr. Copley made a name for himself as a footballer and cricketer.

“The boys achieved a lot because of our camaraderie and also the work we had to do to reach the sporting levels that we have achieved,” said Mr. Moriarty.

“Vince Copley also gave some of the younger boys some great inspiration.”

In 2000, Mr. Copley’s activism and love of cricket led him to become Chairman of the National Indigenous Advisory Committee, where he organized national and international cricket programs.

He was also instrumental in organizing the 1988 England Tour, which commemorates the first Australian Aboriginal tour of 1868.

His contribution is recognized with the Vince Copley Medal, an award that recognizes “Outstanding Cricketer” at Lord Taverner’s annual Aboriginal Carnival.

Later in his life, Mr. Copley focused on the recovery and protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage.

He played a pivotal role in indigenous title claims for the Narangga and Kaurna peoples.

Mr Copley’s colleague at Flinders University, Professor Claire Smith, said he was a great leader.

“He generously shared his knowledge with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” said Ms. Smith.

“He was a wonderful teacher and mentor.”

Mr. Copley’s grandfather, Barney Waria was one of the last Ngadjuri initiates.

His stories of Indigenous knowledge and culture were documented by a trainee anthropologist named Ronald Bernt.

Mr Bernt’s field notes containing Mr Waria’s stories are currently held at the Berndt Museum at the University of Western Australia under a 30-year embargo expected to be lifted in 2024.

Sadly, Mr. Copley was unable to fulfill his last wish to bring back the memories of his grandfather.

Vincent Copley was 85 years old at the time of his death.

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