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Aboriginal church gets heritage protection

A Melbourne church where social justice pioneer, Christian pastor and Fitzroy Football Club legend Sir Douglas Nicholls preached is now heritage protected.

Sir Douglas, a Yorta Yorta man, established the Aboriginal Church of Christ at Gore Street, Fitzroy in the 1940s.

The hall was built in the 1860s for a different church, but later became a meeting point for the growing indigenous community in Melbourne as Sir Douglas and his wife Gladys ran church services, bible schools, youth club and social services.

The church has been included on the Victorian Heritage Register in recognition of its significance to the Aboriginal community and a hub from which the Aboriginal rights movement grew.

At a time when Aboriginal people did not have the right to vote, many Aboriginal political and social justice groups emerged from the church.

The heritage listing of the Gore Street church ensures legal protection of the site and means it cannot be altered without a permit or permit exemption from Heritage Victoria.

SIR DOUGLAS NICHOLLS

* VFL star who played for Carlton, Northcote then Fitzroy Football Club

* Driving force behind the modern Aboriginal rights movement

* Pastor who led services at Fitzroy's Gore Street Mission and established hostels and helped find employment for young arrivals to Melbourne

* Enlisted during the Second World War but was recalled from service at special request in 1942 to continue addressing social issues within his community

* Helped found the Aboriginal Advancement League which lobbied the federal government on indigenous issues, including during the 1967 referendum

* First indigenous Australian to receive a knighthood in 1972

* First indigenous Australian to appointed to vice-regal office when he became Governor of South Australia in 1976

© AAP 2020