Woman Williams-Cooper, Mary (c. 1920 - 1989)

c. 1920
Narrunga Mission, York Peninsula, South Australia, Australia
Aboriginal leader and Kindergarten teacher

Written by Deborah Towns, Swinburne University

Mary Williams-Cooper was born in the 1920s on the Narrunga mission on the York Peninsula, South Australia. Her parents were from the Narranga and Kauna Aboriginal peoples. She was educated on the mission station and later had thirteen children. She worked as an Aboriginal assistant in the Taperoo Primary School in the 1970s and became very concerned with Aboriginal children's early years' educational needs. So in 1972 she organised a group of mainly women who together formed the Aboriginal Parents' and Children's Progress Association Inc. For their children's playgroup the parents used the facilities of the Port Adelaide Mission. In 1975 this association gained a Housing Trust house and established the Alberton Aboriginal Extended Hours Kindergarten. Williams-Cooper chaired the kindergarten committee and worked as the volunteer coordinator. They developed children's learning skills and reinforced the children's pride in being Aboriginal. Initially they received no funding but from 1976 they received funding were supported by the South Australian Kindergarten Union. In 1979 the kindergarten moved to bigger premises and incorporated a childcare centre and a bus service. Later they developed a bridging program and incorporated it into the local primary school. In 1984 the kindergarten was renamed the Kayalya Children's Centre. Today it has a new building at the Port Adelaide Primary School with childcare and vacation care as well as the kindergarten. Mary Williams-Cooper died in 1989 and the Centre stands as a testimony to her initiative and work for children.

Published Resources

Book Sections

  • Hall, Bev, 'Mary Williams-Cooper', in Joan Waters (ed.), With Passion, Perseverance and Practicality: 100 Women Who Influenced Australian Children's Services, 1841-2001, OMEP Australia, Melbourne, Victoria, 2002. Details

See also