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John Thomas Patten John Thomas Patten i(A107718 works by) (a.k.a. Jack Patten)
Born: Established: 27 Mar 1905 Moama, Deniliquin - Boundary Bend - Moama area, Far South West NSW, New South Wales, ; Died: Ceased: 12 Oct 1957 Melbourne, Victoria,
Gender: Male
Heritage: Aboriginal
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John Thomas Patten was educated at public schools in New South Wales. He worked as a labourer, boxer and Aboriginal activist. His activism emerged in the 1930s, when he began to organise political groups. While unemployed in 1936, he made a special effort on Sundays to go to the Sydney Domain so that he could talk about Indigenous issues to anyone who would listen.

In August 1937, Patten met Percy Reginald Stephensen, who encouraged him to write 'militant' letters to the then premier, Sir Bertram Stevens. Stephensen would later become editor of the Publicist, a political publication owned by William John Miles. In October 1937, Patten met Aboriginal activist, William Ferguson, who made Patten the President of the Aborigines' Progressive Association (APA). While at the APA, Patten and Ferguson wrote Aborigines Claim Citizenship Rights! which was published to promote the Day of Mourning (this event was to protest that Australia Day was not a day to be celebrated by all). After the Day of Mourning, Patten with an Aboriginal Delegation presented to Prime Minister J. A. Lyons a ten point plan for Aboriginal Equality.

Patten and Ferguson's political relationship deteriorated after the first issue of the Australian Abo Call, in 1938, as Ferguson believed Patten was being influenced by the non-Indigenous publisher, W. J. Miles. During a general meeting a 'no confidence' motion was brought up against Patten, whose defeat caused the APA to be divided. Patten continued on his own way, holding political talks and encouraging Indigenous Australians to become active in the struggle for equal rights.

In 1938, Patten returned to Cumeroogunga, at his relatives' requests for help to improve their living standards. After protesting the plight of his family, he found himself expelled from Cumeroogunga. In response to his expulsion, Cumeroogunga's Indigenous population 'walked off' the reserve. Patten was arrested, and had to be bailed out of jail by P. R. Stephensen. The rift between Patten and Ferguson was smoothed over during a political rally in 1940 when Patten called for unity during his talk.

When World War Two began, he enlisted, serving as a private in the Middle East. He was discharged from the Army when he was injured by shrapnel in his knee. In 1946, Patten moved to Melbourne while his wife remained in Grafton. He took on clerical jobs and volunteer work for the Australian Aborigines' League before he died in hospital after a motor vehicle accident.

See also Australian Dictionary of Biography entry.

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Last amended 3 Mar 2010 16:55:54
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