Jimmy Clements

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Jimmy Clements (c. 1847 – 28 August 1927) was an Aboriginal elder from the Wiradjuri tribe in Australia, and was present at the opening of the Provisional Parliament House in Canberra on 9 May 1927.

He was also known as "King Billy"[1] and also by Nangar or Yangar.[2]

Clements and another Wiradjuri man, John Noble, had walked for nearly a week over the mountains from Brungle Mission near Gundagai, New South Wales.[3] The two men were the only indigenous people to attend the first opening of parliament. Clements was initially told to move on by police at the ceremony due to his attire but due to popular support from other members of the crowd he was among prominent citizens who were presented to the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Elizabeth the Queen Mother).[1]

Clements died on 28 August 1927, aged 80, in Queanbeyan, New South Wales near Canberra. The newspaper report noted that he was buried in Queanbeyan cemetery 'outside consecrated ground' (indigenous Australians were not buried in consecrated ground at the time).[4]


  1. ^ a b Wright, Tony (13 February 2008). "Power of occasion best expressed by the names of those who were not there". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  2. ^ Photograph of Nangar or Yangar of the Wiradjuri Tribe, an Aboriginal known as Jimmy Clements or "King Billy", at the opening of Federal Parliament, 1927 - copy held by State Library of New South Wales
  3. ^ "Old Parliament House: The Opening". History of the House. Old Parliament House. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  4. ^ McKenna, Mark (2004). "The Need for a Reconciled Republic". Manning Clark House. Archived from the original on 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2008-02-13. 

External links[edit]

  • Photograph of Jimmy Clements and his dog outside Parliament House
  • "Parliament gets first indigenous welcome". Sydney Morning Herald. 12 February 2008. Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. Retrieved 2008-02-13. Both Mr Rudd and Ms House-Williams referred to an elderly Aborigine who attended the 1927 event with his dogs. On that day, the barefooted, shabbily dressed Jimmy Clements was asked to move on by a policeman. Reports of the day say he stood his ground and was supported by members of the crowd. Mr Rudd referred to a Canberra Times story of the day about the incident which called Mr Clements a member of a fast-vanishing race. 
  • "Historic welcome 'shows proper respect'". The Australian. 12 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-13. Ngambri elder Matilda House-Williams addressed the crowd after greeting Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and presented him a message stick. She said her reception was far different from that accorded Jimmy Clements - an elderly Aboriginal man - barefoot, dressed in an old suit and accompanied by his dogs, who attended the opening of Parliament House in 1927. "On seeing Mr Clements, a policeman asked him to leave because he wasn't dressed appropriately for the occasion," she said. Mr Clements responded that this was the land of his ancestors. 
  • "Teachers notes: Establishing the seat of Federal Government". National Treasures. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 2008-02-13. Jimmy Clements was a Wiradjuri Aboriginal elder. At the age of 80 he walked barefoot with his dog all the way from Tumut to be present at the opening of Parliament House in 1927. He was not allowed into Parliament House because he was not dressed properly. The Police tried to turn him away but the crowd supported his presence at the historic opening. Could this have been Australia's first land rights demonstration? If so what message might it have communicated to Aboriginal people?