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Tucker, Margaret Elizabeth (Auntie Marge) (1904–1996)

by John Farquharson

This entry is from Obituaries Australia

Margaret (Lilardia) Tucker who died at Mooroopna in Victoria on August 23, aged 92, was one of Australia's earliest and most notable Aboriginal activists.

Her Aboriginal name, Lilardia, means flower but she was known affectionately to black and white alike as "Auntie Marge". She was born at Warrangasda, an Aboriginal reserve near Darlington Point on the Murrumbidgee River in NSW, of a full-blood mother and part-white father, Theresa and Bill Clements.

Over the years Margaret Tucker won the respect of people because of her refusal to be embittered by the injustices and wrongs done to her people. Her philosophy was to go on fighting to put the wrongs right. This she did quietly but resolutely, even though, as a victim of the pre-World War II NSW Aboriginal system, she had every right to be bitter.

She was one of the many Aboriginal children forcibly separated from their parents. In her case, at age 12, police took her from her mother, at Moonahculla Mission, near Deniliquin, and sent her to the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls.

Of this experience, she recalled later, "I cannot forget the detail of that moment. It stands out as if it were yesterday. It broke our hearts — tearing us apart — by taking us away to learn domestic work."

After being trained to be "a domestic", she had an 11-year stint serving white housewives, some callous and some compassionate. Her experiences led her to take up the cause of her people as a young woman in the 1930s, joining cousins Jack and George Patten in bringing the plight of Aborigines to the notice of white Australians.

In 1932, she became treasurer of one of the country's first Aboriginal organisations — the Victorian Aborigines League. Her activities in the Aboriginal cause led to her being selected, with the then-Pastor Doug Nicholls and William Cooper, to represent the Victorian Aboriginal community during the "day of mourning", organised by the Aboriginal Progressive Association, at Australia's 150th anniversary celebrations in Sydney on Australia Day 1938.

Full citizenship rights and equal opportunity was their demand.

When World War II had arrived, the Aboriginal cause had virtually became forgotten. But Margaret was among those who took up the fight again in the post-war years and, in recognition of her work with Aboriginal organisations, she was awarded the MBE in 1968. Until illness intervened some years ago, Marge continued to work with her people's organisations, as well as the Moral Re-Armament movement which she had encountered in 1956.

Throughout her life she never lost her sense of compassion and understanding for others.

She is survived by her daughter Mollie Burns, of Melbourne, and six grandchildren.

Original Publication

  • Canberra Times, 29 August 1996

Additional Resources

Citation details

John Farquharson, 'Tucker, Margaret Elizabeth (Auntie Marge) (1904–1996)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/tucker-margaret-elizabeth-auntie-marge-1556/text1618, accessed 19 November 2017.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2012