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Footy Legend’s Former Church Heritage Listed

13 June 2020

A church founded by Fitzroy Football Club legend and tireless social justice campaigner Sir Douglas Nicholls is now heritage protected.

Built in the 1860s as a church hall for the Bible Christian Church, Sir Douglas Nicholls was pastor of the Aboriginal Church of Christ on Gore St in the 1940s.

The church has been included on the Victorian Heritage Register in recognition of its significance to the Aboriginal community and the place which many people describe as where the modern Aboriginal rights movement started.

The exterior of the church, now a residential dwelling, still resembles the building where Sir Doug and his wife Gladys led numerous social justice campaigns for Aboriginal people in Victoria.

At a time when most Aboriginal people didn’t even have the right to vote, many Aboriginal political and social justice groups emerged from the gatherings at the church.

By the first half of the twentieth century, it became an important community centre for many Aboriginal people who moved from regional Victoria to Melbourne.

With the declaration of World War Two, many more Aboriginal families moved to Melbourne, and Fitzroy in particular, to be closer to their enlisted husbands and sons.

Places included on the Victorian Heritage Register must be of State level heritage significance. The listing ensures legal protection and means the place cannot be altered without a permit or permit exemption from Heritage Victoria.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Planning Richard Wynne

“This building has a special place in the hearts and history of the Victorian Aboriginal community – it’s wonderful to see it being recognised and protected.”

“Pastor Doug Nicholls and his wife Gladys turned this humble church into a place that galvanising the Aboriginal community in their fight for basic human rights.”

Quote attributable to Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams

“This church was more than a place of worship – it was a place of community and strength from which many contemporary Aboriginal services and organisations evolved.”

Reviewed 26 June 2020

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