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Hazel Atkinson

Land rights advocate, human rights activist; bringing about cultural reform and change.


Dedicated to supporting her community.

Aunty Hazel Atkinson (nee Taylor-Moore) is a descendant of the Wamba Wamba, Barapa Barapa, Wiradjuri, Dja Dja Wurrung and Wergaia Nations. Her Wamba Wamba Nation’s totem is the Wiran or red-tailed black cockatoo. 

She was born on Wamba Wamba Country in Moulamein, New South Wales in a little bush hospital. Aunty Hazel is one of 14 children, of which she is the sixth eldest. She is a proud mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. 

Her family moved around a lot during her childhood due to their father undertaking seasonal work. She and her siblings went to bush schools and then settled on the river in Swan Hill on Wamba Wamba Country in the 1950s where Aunty Hazel went to high school. She was then sent with her sister Louise to do domestic work. They worked as maids for non-Aboriginal families in the local area.  

Aunty Hazel and her family then moved to Melbourne, where she and her siblings had begged their parents to go, so they could look for work. Aunty Hazel and her sister Louise worked in factories before taking up jobs at the telephone exchange which is now known as Telstra. Aunty Hazel was trained as a switchboard operator connecting telephone calls to Australian warships during the Vietnam War. This was an important job at the time because it linked soldiers with their families in order to say goodbye before their departure from Australia.

She then met and married her husband Jeff Atkinson, a Yorta Yorta man, had 3 beautiful daughters and moved back to Swan Hill with her family in the 1970s. 

Aunty Hazel’s first involvement in social justice came when she joined a campaign to improve the living conditions of the Wamba Wamba people living along the Murray River in tents and non-permanent shelters. The local Aboriginal community and their allies united to address this issue and Aunty Hazel served as their spokesperson. She lobbied the government on behalf of the Wamba Wamba people for the construction of houses along the river and the enhancement of living standards. With the assistance of the Murray River Regional Land Council, 5 houses were constructed on the New South Wales side of the river. 

From an early age, Aunty Hazel learnt the importance of fighting for and caring for Country. Her step-grandfather James Moore had fought successfully to get back the 99-year lease for their land. Since then, 10 acres of land has been handed back over to the extended family and Wamba Wamba people at Murray Downs, New South Wales. The Moore family still have land on the banks of the Murray River opposite Swan Hill as a result. 

Aunty Hazel and her families continued their advocacy for native title, cultural heritage, health, and housing for the Wamba Wamba people. They worked to develop an organic market garden and greenhouses which became a flourishing business. Through this, Aunty Hazel was able to create employment and training opportunities for her community. 

Aunty Hazel remains steadfast in advocating for recognition of the Wamba Wamba people and their allied Nations, representing her community on the Wamba Wamba Sovereign Elders Council alongside fellow Elders. She has also served as the chairperson of the Wamba Wamba Local Aboriginal Land Council. 

Aunty Hazel continues to fight for native title through the Wamba Wamba Native Title application lodged in 2023, and in the Wamba Wamba application for Registered Aboriginal Party status under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Vic) in 2024. 

Aunty Hazel continues to work tirelessly to progress land rights and improve her community’s socio-economic and cultural status. 

She has been a part of the repatriation process to recover, return and celebrate all Wamba Wamba ancestral remains and cultural artefacts to their communities of origin. She has a profound belief for the cultural principle of ‘respect the dead, respect the living’. 

Aunty Hazel has exhibited diligence, perseverance, dedication and commitment through her life. She has shown an unwavering determination in safeguarding, preserving and showcasing cultural heritage on Country. As a cultural advisor involved in development and heritage protection on Wamba Wamba Country, she has led by example in the preservation of heritage sites and protecting culturally significant areas, locations and artifacts. She has conducted thorough assessments of sites of cultural importance across Wamba Wamba Country, identifying sacred sites to prevent organisations from desecrating or harming cultural heritage. In 1989, she was actively involved in a major dispute with Murray Downs Golf and Country Club in New South Wales over the desecration of 6 Wamba Wamba burial sites containing 17 Ancestors. 

Aunty Hazel, a woman of integrity and esteemed Gnerick Gnerick (Elder) and leader, is widely recognised for her dedication to supporting her community. Her contributions are well-regarded within the Aboriginal community, earning her admiration and respect.