Bundjalung Pastor Frank Roberts at Tuncester “Cubawee”

Roberts, Frank (1899–1968) by Heather Radi

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002.

Frank Roberts (c.1899-1968), pastor, was born about 1899 at Blakebrook, near Lismore, New South Wales, eldest of fifteen children of Australian-born parents Lyle Roberts, labourer, and his wife Bella, née Davis.

Lyle was a fully initiated Bundjalung who later converted to Christianity.

Educated at the segregated school at Cabbage Tree Island station, near Wardell, which was maintained by the Board for Protection of Aborigines, Frank worked as a labourer.

On 13 August 1918 at the Presbyterian manse, Ballina, he married Dorothy Hart. He took his family to Lismore, probably in 1925. Armed with character references and a solicitor’s letter, he succeeded in enrolling his children in a public school. When the segregation of students resumed in 1928, the Robertses returned to Cabbage Tree Island.

Following a ‘violent argument’ with the station’s manager, Roberts and his family moved in 1937 to the Aboriginal settlement at Tuncester, near Lismore, where there was no board-appointed manager.

About 1933 he had committed himself to evangelism under the auspices of the United Aborigines Mission.

Frank, his father and brothers held prayer meetings and ran the Tuncester settlement.

In an effort to put pressure on families to move to supervised reserves, the Aborigines Protection Board had closed the school and threatened to remove children from their parents.

Roberts campaigned against the board’s policies. Tuncester became a refuge for Aborigines who objected to the authority of White managers on stations and reserves.

Roberts called the settlement by its Aboriginal name, Cubawee, which meant ‘plentiful food’.

He thanked God for ‘the spiritual food’. With U.A.M. evangelists from Purfleet, he travelled to Sydney in 1938 for the ‘Day of Mourning’ protest.

He later recruited Bundjalung people to the Aborigines’ Progressive Association in the hope that ‘the Association will smash up the Aborigines Destruction Board’.

In 1940, with his eldest son, Roberts organized—independently of the U.A.M.— “A Convention at Cubawee” for the deepening of the spiritual life’.

Hundreds participated in what became an annual event and a model for other gatherings.

The U.A.M. listed Roberts as a ‘native helper’ and then as a ‘native evangelist’ before appointing him a ‘Native Pastor’ in 1947.

The idea of an autonomous indigenous church gathered support within the mission and in 1950 it was proposed that Roberts work interstate to this end.

Nothing came of the plan because of a lack of money. He retired from the U.A.M. in 1956, but remained a ‘Prayer Partner’.

Cubawee was crowded, dilapidated and without sanitation. Neither the Aborigines Welfare Board nor Lismore City Council met its needs.

Roberts protested in vain. As official policy gradually came to favour assimilation, the buildings on Cubawee were bulldozed in 1964 to force the remaining residents to move.

Land security and Aboriginal independence had been two of Roberts’s persistent aims.

His achievement—the creation of a relatively autonomous Christian network across Bundjalung communities—underpinned their reassertion of land rights in the 1960s.

Suffering from chronic bronchitis and emphysema, Roberts died of a coronary occlusion on 21 June 1968 at Lismore and was buried in the local lawn cemetery with the forms of the Assemblies of God.

His wife, and their three sons and two daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

M. Reay (ed), Aborigines Now (Syd, 1964) H. Goodall, Invasion to Embassy (Syd, 1996)

Select Committee on Administration of Aborigines Protection Board, Proceedings, Parliamentary Papers (New South Wales), 1938-40, vol 7 Australian Abo Call, May, July 1938 United Aborigines’ Messenger, Apr 1939, Sept 1940, June 1947, Feb-Apr, June-July, Sept-Oct 1950, Aug 1953, Dec 1955, Richmond River Historical Society, Bulletin, 47, 1968, p 11.

Living Arts – The Great Garden

WAI Creative Studio Nimbin

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#RUOKday 2017 #NorthernRivers #NSW

Honest connections, vibrant energies, 100’s of hello’s, familiar faces embaced and #Love shared.

There is an abundance of #Courage behind the faces, under the presence we keep! Keep true to #Oneself with lots of time to #Listen #2480 Streets, RealTime. #Communication

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7 Locations, Two towns #Lismore and #Nimbin Great day, with so many beautiful people.

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Bundjalung Nation – Aboriginal resistance groups planning Stolenwealth Games protests | Welcome To Country




In 2018, Australia will be hosting the Commonwealth games for the third time and Aboriginal resistance groups are currently planning protests for the third time as well. In a recent Facebook post, The Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance group posted the following poster which calls for all groups who are fighting for justice to unite on the Gold Coast for 2 weeks in April 2018.


RealTime Arts – Magazine – issue 64 – NSW North Coast: Watching the creatives

From outside the NSW North Coast, Byron Bay might seem like the region’s creative omphalos.

In this Newtown-by-the-beach you can’t move for poets, musicians, digital artists and visionaries. Everyone has a project.

But most are just in town for coffee; artists can barely afford to live in the Bay since real estate prices hit the million plus mark.

In recent years it’s more the territory of Richard Florida’s “super creatives”: retired/cashed up entrepreneurs, architects and arts executives, or those temporarily escaping the rigours of urban life.

But while wealth gravitates to Wategos Beach, the cultural ecology of the Rainbow Region is far more complex than one boho-luxe holiday spot. You have to look to the hills and valleys in the distance for creativity beyond the consumption.

They host a cultural legacy based as much on alternative philosophy, spirituality and politics as a marketable lifestyle, and driven increasingly by what media studies scholar Helen Wilson describes as the “simultaneous attraction and repulsion of the city.”


Nimbin Dreamining 1973

Held from 12-21 May 1973, the Nimbin Aquarius Festival was a watershed event in the growth of an alternative movement in Australia.

A salient feature of the festival, both at the time and in recollection, was its incorporation of Aboriginal culture.

The organisers of the ten-day event decided early in their planning that the festival would be an exploration of alternative lifestyles – ‘a prophetic vision of the world we wish to live in.’

Pitched as a ‘survival festival’ (not a pop or rock music festival – certainly not, as many people now see it, Australia’s version of Woodstock – but as an experiment in self-sufficient community living), festival-goers were urged to form themselves into tribes, to cook and eat communally and to live in harmony with the natural environment.

The slogan ‘Nimbin is our Dreamtime’ captured a shared view that the festival was the modern equivalent of an Aboriginal corroboree, and that festival-goers were the inheritors of an Aboriginal tradition that was in danger of being lost.

Anthropologists tend to condemn this type of engagement with indigenous cultures as appropriation, but the story is more complex than that.

Unusually for the time, the festival organisers sought permission from local Aboriginal people to hold the event; they asked questions about the area’s ritual and spiritual significance and attempted to incorporate this into the festival’s design; they invited Aboriginal people to open the festival and to give talks on Aboriginal culture and traditions.

This level of consultation with Aboriginal people and engagement with Aboriginal culture was, and remains, a source of considerable pride for the festival organisers.

Viewed through the lens of history, their efforts stand as one of very few examples in Australian history where settler Australians have sought to learn from Aboriginal people and to adopt Aboriginal cultural practices, not unproblematically or uncontroversially, but sincerely and with respect.

With the fortieth anniversary of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival this month, it is timely to reflect on this little-known embrace of Aboriginality by members of the counterculture – the self-proclaimed ‘Aquarius Tribe.’

Dr Rani Kerin, School of History, is a Research Fellow with the National Centre of Biography and Research Editor with the Australian Dictionary of Biography Updated: 1 August 2017/ Responsible Officer: Head of School / Page Contact: Web Publisher


All hail the… Rainbow Fella! Graeme Dunstan – Peacebus.com Home Page

“In 1973 with Johnny Allen as director of the Aquarius Foundation of the Australian Union of Students and Dunstan, as director of the Foundation’s biennial Aquarius Festival, together they produced theAquarius Festival which took place in Nimbin Nimbin, New South Wales.”

Peacebus journeys for justice, protests for peace and speaks out for a sustaining Earth.

Long time social activist and cultural entrepreneur, Graeme Dunstan, is its captain, the East coast of Australia is its migratory zone. After a long career as an event organiser Graeme, at 74, is an old age pensioner and just keeps at it as a skilful means of engaging his Vajrayana Buddhist practice in the suffering of the world. He lives in the van which serves as a mobile kuti(meditation hut) He travels about with laptop and WiFi, horn speakers, work tables and bamboo poles on the roof racks, and under his bunk, a PA amp plus crates of flags, banners and tools. Best he can, he organises events and acts of witness. But he likes best to help out at other people’s events by rigging flags to add a bit of colour and presence. For him occupations of public place are an artform.