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The late Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta activist William Townsend “Bill” Onus Jr was a larger-than-life activist, boomerang champion and theatrical entrepreneur. But Onus might also have become as famous for the cinematic portrayal of the plight of his people, had his documentary film work ever seen the light of day.

In 1939, Bill Onus was a leader of the Aboriginal mass strike at Cummeragunja in New South Wales, the reserve he was born on, in 1906. Ten years after his birth, he fled with his mother and siblings, after they were warned welfare would take children away.

In the early 2000s, having just started her eponymous law firm in Sydney, Meriam and Wuthathi woman Terri Janke travelled to her birthplace of Cairns to speak about protecting Indigenous art and knowledge to empower the local community.

The Cairns local newspaper dubbed her a “cultural crusader”, which shocked her: the front page story made her feel like an “impostor” and “big noter”. Flying out of Cairns, a Torres Strait woman reading the newspaper in the next seat recognised her.

Steve's essays Bent Man Running published in Growing Up Queer in Australia and Stream drama in Meanjin autumn 2020.
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