Mick Miller (Aboriginal statesman)

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Mick Miller
MickMiller lowres01.jpg
"Mick Miller .. [was].. a great Australian leader of the Aboriginal community" Martin Ferguson MP, Australian House of Representatives[1]
Born (1937-01-16)January 16, 1937
Palm Island, Queensland
Died April 5, 1998(1998-04-05) (aged 61)
Cairns, Queensland
Cause of death heart seizure
Resting place Cairns
Residence Cairns
Nationality Waanyi & Kuku Yalanji
Ethnicity Aboriginal Australian
Citizenship Australian
Education Kelvin Grove Teachers College
Occupation social activist, land rights campaigner and statesman
Known for promoting and advocating Australian Aboriginal social justice, rights, and opportunity
Board member of Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
Aboriginal Arts Board
North Queensland Land Council
Aboriginal Development Commission
State Tripartite Forum.
Spouse(s) Pat O'Shane, Barbara Russell
Children Lydia, Marilyn & Michael Miller
Parent(s) Michael Miller Senior (father)
Cissie Miller (mother)

Mick Miller (16 January 1937 – 5 April 1998) was a notable Aboriginal Australian activist, politician, and statesman who campaigned for most of his life seeking greater social justice, land rights, and improved life opportunities for Aboriginal Australians in North Queensland and Australia.[2]

In 1998 Queensland's Land Rights newspaper summarized and described Mick Miller and his life's contribution as follows:[2]

Mick Miller was a respected elder statesman and a long-time mover and shaker in the Aboriginal struggle for social justice and land rights in Australia ... From early struggles and fights for recognition of basic rights for Indigenous people, such as proper health care, adequate housing, freedom of movement and land rights, Mick Miller led from the front ... one of the foremost national Indigenous leaders, a man of great vision, tremendous generosity of spirit ..., possessed of an infallible sense of humour, incredible optimism against all odds and great staying power in the Aboriginal movement ...

Biographical details[edit]

Mick Miller was born on Palm Island, Queensland on 16 January 1937, son of Michael Miller Senior (Waanyi) and Cissie Miller (née Sibley) (Kuku Yalanji), and eldest of seven children (5 girls, 2 boys).[2]

By the early 1960s Miller had married Pat O'Shane in Cairns, and together they had two daughters, Lydia and Marilyn.[citation needed] Later he married Barbara Russell, and had a son, Michael.[2]

Mick's commitment and leadership within his own family is evident in the pride and admiration his parents, his brothers and sisters and his children had in him, together with his extended family of many aunts and uncles, cousins and nieces and nephews ...

Miller died from a heart seizure on 5 April 1998.[3] It was reported that his funeral was attended by over a thousand people.[3]


Miller received his primary school education at St Michael's Catholic School at Palm Island. He completed his secondary schooling at Mt Carmel Boarding College at Charters Towers, Queensland.

By 1959 Miller had graduated from Kelvin Grove Teachers College in Brisbane, where he was one of the first Aboriginal Australians in Queensland to become a fully qualified teacher.[2]

In the mid 1960s he obtained some early political training and encouragement by joining the local Aboriginal Advancement League and later the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI), during which time he attended a World Council of Indigenous Peoples[4] meeting at Kiruna in Samiland (Sweden). .


After qualifying as a teacher in 1959, Miller was posted to Cairns, Queensland to teach at the North Cairns State Primary School.[2] Some years later he resigned from this position, having encountered some resistance and difficulties within the Department of Education regarding his political activities and attendance at a World Council of Indigenous Peoples in Samiland (Sweden).[2]

Having left teaching, Miller instead became an active member of the local branch of the Aboriginal Advancement League, and, by 1971-1972 had become Vice-President of a Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. He also helped establish the original, politically active and influential North Queensland Land Council, of which he was Chair for some time.[2]

Miller also sat as a Board Member of the Aboriginal Arts Board, and by the 1980s had become a Commissioner with the Aboriginal Development Commission (ADC) and, later, Deputy Chair of the ADC, from where he sought to promote economic development as the key to getting Aboriginal people off welfare and government dependence.[2]

In 1985, the Commonwealth Government appointed Miller to head up a federal government review of employment, education and training, ultimately producing what came to be known as the "Miller Report":[2] a significant Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander training and employment policy document that was to become an Aboriginal employment and training 'blueprint'[5] with 'pivotal impact on Government program policies for some time to come.[6]

During the 1990s Miller chaired the State Tripartite Forum (a Queensland State Government-sponsored Aboriginal health organization) and in this way he became involved in many founding State policies and programs to improve the health of the Aboriginal people in Queensland.[2]

Political dissident[edit]

By the early 1970s Miller, along with other local Aboriginal Australians in the Cairns region (including ex boxing champion and close friend Clarry Grogan), had become active members of a local predominantly Aboriginal branch of the Aboriginal Advancement League; had become effective advocates on a Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI); were involved in founding an Aboriginal Legal Service to bring legal assistance to Aboriginal peoples in the North Queensland region; and, with the formation of the North Queensland Land Council in January 1976[7] were campaigning for Aboriginal land rights.[2]

It was during this period that, following national success in a 1967 referendum winning Aboriginal Australians the right to be included on Australian electoral rolls, Miller plus Clarry Grogan chose in 1977 to accompany Fred Hollows and his National Trachoma and Eye Health Program team on visits to North Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander reserves.

While visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Miller and Grogan assisted people to sign onto electoral rolls,[8] so confirming their reputation with the Queensland Government, and Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen for being trouble-makers and political dissenters:[8]

"On Thursday Island, our team encountered political discrimination and harassment against two Aboriginal liaison officers, Mick Miller, a Kalkadoon man, and Clarrie Grogan, a Kuku Yalanji man [..] At this time, the Queensland government did not encourage the inclusion of Aboriginal and Islander people on the electoral roll (a right they only gained after the 1967 referendum), and both incurred the government's wrath when it was alleged that they helped their people to sign on to the electoral roll [...] So-called political dissidence like this was not tolerated in Queensland .. Grogan and Miller were dismissed. Shortly after, the NTEHP in Queensland was stopped."

Couldn't Be Fairer[edit]

We treat them the same as everyone else - couldn't be fairer. Queensland Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen - 1983"[9]

In 1984 Miller wrote and narrated a film named Couldn't Be Fairer (the expressed point of view of the then Premier of Queensland) about that state's treatment of Aboriginal peoples. The film was produced in collaboration with filmmaker Dennis O'Rourke[9] to bring attention to the social injustices that were endured by Aboriginal people. The film included television footage and clips of politicians and businessmen openly expressing racist views[10] (including Western Australian mining magnate, Lang Hancock suggesting mass sterilization; a town mayor calling Aboriginal people "savages", and a Queensland Graziers Association spokesperson dividing people into "true Aborigines" and "hybrids".[11])

With unflinching honesty, it depicts the problems of alcoholism, racial violence and political oppression still faced today by the first Australians. Using astutely selected archival footage to give historical depth to scenes of contemporary desolation and abuse, the film is a hard-hitting statement about racial conflict. ... [It] is also a profile of aboriginal activist Mick Miller, who ... narrates the film and forcefully expresses his view of race relations in Australia — Robert Milliken, National Times (Sydney)[9]

See also[edit]


On line newspaper articles[edit]

The Chairman of the North Queensland Land Council, Mr Mick Miller, declared there would be no agreement with the Shell subsidiary Billiton Aluminium (Australia) for bauxite mining at Aurukun ... Mr Miller ... predicted the ban on negotiations at Aurukun would provoke action from the Queensland Government: "Joh Bjelke-Peterson will jump up and down and react normally" ... A spokesperson for Mr Bjelke-Peterson said ... "Mr Miller has long been involved in fruitless attempts to win the support of ... Aborigines in Queensland for ratbag schemes designed to create enclaves."

On-line video clip[edit]

External links[edit]