Alf Turner remembers his grandfather, William Cooper, 2008

Transcript of sound recording

We lived with him before he went down to Melbourne to do his work amongst ... for his people, and they came back from Melbourne and took me down to live with them and I was down there for about two years. And they lived in a street called Southampton Street, in Footscray. And what I remember of grandfather ... I spent most of that time with him ...

I can remember he started the AAL, Australian Aboriginals' [sic] League, and I knew most of the people that came to the meetings. The meetings were held at the house we lived in because he was in his late 70s at that stage and he couldn't get around much. So most of the people came to the house we lived in and I remember that a lot of the letters he wrote in those days ... the letters we read today ... were written by him being in bed with a blanket around his shoulders because the house we lived in had no heating. It was the only way he could keep himself warm.

And I was only 7 years of age at that time. I didn't know a lot about what was going on. But I did know that he was writing most of the letters being on his sickbed. He was very upset to think that he couldn't get anywhere with what he'd wanted to do for his people. And most of the time, he spoke about that - not being able to get anywhere. The government didn't take much notice of what he wanted. And the Aboriginal people in that time, their treatment was very bad. In most of the states in Australia they suffered quite a bit and that was the main thing he talked about, and the main thing he worked for.

And I witnessed a lot of that racism as a child. For instance, I wasn't allowed to attend a public school because they didn't want us there. And when our mothers took us to the school to enrol us, the head teacher said: 'We don't want you here'. That's the type of thing that happened in those days, but it wouldn't happen today. Things have changed. And it's nowhere as bad as what it was when I was a young kid, and I think that's brought about by - a lot of it - by the work that my grandfather done in the early days, and the people that worked with him. I think he would have been over the moon, how things have changed.