Uncle Edward Alfred (Ted) Lovett is a respected Gunditjmara/Djabwurrung Elder, who has spent his life working to improve the lives of the Aboriginal community in Victoria. Ted is a courageous and passionate advocate for Aboriginal rights and self-determination. Ted has also been a tireless champion for the Stolen Generations, Aboriginal youth and Aboriginal health in Victoria.
Ted was born on 15 February 1941, at the Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne, Carlton Victoria to Gertrude Christina Lovett (known as Gertie) and Alfred (Tom) Egan. Alfred Egan was one of the first Aboriginal players for Carlton Football Club in the 1930s. Ted
is the second youngest of five children, and spent his early years between Melbourne, Warrnambool, Framlingham, Portland and Lake Condah, due to his single mother working and the threat of welfare intervening, “because we were born Aboriginal.”
He attended school until Grade 5. In 1955, at age 14, Ted and his non-Aboriginal friend of the same age went to Mildura to go fruit picking, but they were picked up by the police and locked up. The non-Aboriginal boy’s parents were notified and told to collect him, however, Ted’s mother was not notified. Ted commented: “From Mildura I was sent to the Ballarat Gaol with adult prisoners and then went to Court and was made a State Ward. For the next seven years I was in and out of boys’ homes including Turana Boys Home, Bayswater Salvation Army Boys Home, and Langi Kal Kal, Youth Training Centre. The treatment in the Boys’ Homes was unjust and inhumane. I was treated cruelly in the homes; no child should have been there. I would escape but was just sent back again.”
In 1962, Ted moved to Ballarat to play football. A year later, Ted played football for Fitzroy Victorian Football League (VFL), now known as the Brisbane Lions in the Australian Football League (AFL). He returned to North Ballarat toward the end of 1963 where he received the Ballarat Football League’s highest honour, Ballarat Football League’s Best and Fairest Award, the Henderson Medal, as well as in 1965. He was the first person to win the Henderson Medal twice. He also played for Fitzroy in 1964. Ted went on to play for Myrtleford, and coached Junior at Toora, Birchip and North Ballarat. Ted also received the Centenary Medal for his service to the Ballarat Aboriginal community.
In 1965, Ted married his loving wife Susan Kay Moorhouse and they celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary this year. They have one son, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The importance of family, culture and community has been passed on to them. As well as being outspoken in stamping out racism both on and off the field, Ted has campaigned for better healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, especially in regional Victoria.
When Ted worked with the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service he would take doctors around the region to educate them about the barriers that community faced when accessing health care: “the racism in the hospitals was so bad that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were not getting looked after”.
It was while working for the then Department of Human Services in the 1970s that Ted played a key role in setting up the Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative, which today specialises in Aboriginal health, welfare and community development. Ted continues to be a regular contributor to the ongoing work of this organisation.
Ted had a chance to work closely with renowned eye surgeon Fred Hollows. Their work together promoted and highlighted the importance for Aboriginal liaisons in health services, to encourage cultural awareness and the need for cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait people in mainstream health organisations. It was hoped that this would promote and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be in charge of their healthcare. In 1978, Ted went to the United States of America as a guest speaker at the Native American Women’s Conference to highlight Aboriginal issues in Australia.
Ted was involved with the setting up of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA), the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO). And he has been involved with lobbying state and federal governments for better funding for Aboriginal organisations. Ted was also the first Aboriginal person employed by Community Welfare in the 1970s, now known as the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Over the course of his life, he has been instrumental in getting Aboriginal children out of children’s homes and back to family and community: “It was important to shut down all the homes, and we did”.
Ted has been humbled, when receiving his many awards and accolades over the years, for his committed and hard work. In 2017, Ted received an Order of Australia Medal for his extensive service to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of southwest Victoria. Although, he has never needed an award for his work, Ted said: “It is nice to be acknowledged by my community for being myself”.
The focus for Ted has always been on equality and justice for his community. This is why he continues to fight to break down racist barriers to create change and unity.
Reviewed 08 November 2019