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Senator Neville Bonner at his desk, 1979

Senator Neville Bonner at his desk, 1979. Image courtesy of National Archives of Australia 2024 (A6180, 18/12/79/7). 

Many of AHL’s 42 hostels have names that link with the communities they serve. Some honour First Nations leaders who have a close connection to AHL, like our multipurpose Neville Bonner Hostel in Rockhampton Queensland which pays homage to trailblazing First Nations leader, Neville Bonner AO.

More than 50 years ago, Neville Bonner, along with Dr Charles Perkins AO and Neville Jansz, proposed the Federal Government set up a network of hostels, staffed by First Nations people, for First Nations people. The government accepted the proposal and AHL was created. We have been providing a valuable service for First Nations people ever since and with around half of our staff being First Nations people, we continue to serve First Nations people by First Nations people. Neville Bonner was a founding Director of AHL and served on the Board as a Queensland representative for 10 years.

Recreation of AHL's first Annual Report

Re-creation of AHL’s First Annual Report. 

Neville Bonner was a Jagera man, born on Ukerebagh Island, at the mouth of the Tweed River in New South Wales. Neville Bonner entered the Senate in 1971 and was the first Aboriginal man to sit in Federal Parliament. It was a historic appointment, coming only 4 years after the 1967 Referendum. He continued to represent Queensland in the Senate until 1983. Neville Bonner was named Australian of the Year in 1979 and was awarded an Order of Australia in 1984.

Neville Bonner described himself as having ‘an all-consuming burning desire to help my own people’. 

He would later emphasise, however, that he tried in his political career ‘to serve all people’.

AHL is proud that Neville Bonner’s inspirational legacy lives on at AHL’s Neville Bonner Hostel.

As Bonner once said, ‘We as Aboriginal people still have to fight to prove that we are straight out plain human beings, the same as everyone else. You know, I grew up, born on a government blanket under a palm tree. I lived under lantana bushes, I've seen more dinner times than I've seen dinners, I've known discrimination, I've known prejudice, I've known all of those things... but some of that is still with us... and it's got to be changed.’

To learn more about Neville Bonner Hostel, please visit our Neville Bonner Hostel page