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Charles Frederick (Fred) Maynard (1879–1946)

by Heather Goodall and John Maynard

This article was published online in 2021

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Charles Frederick (Fred) Maynard (1879-1946), Aboriginal activist, was born on 4 July 1879 at Hinton, New South Wales, third child of William Maynard, an English-born labourer, and his wife Mary, née Phillips. Her mother, also Mary, was a Worimi woman from the Port Stephens area who had married Jean Phillipe (anglicised as Phillips), an emigrant from the Isle of France (Mauritius). After Mary Maynard’s death in childbirth in 1884, the Maynard children were separated. Fred and his brother Arthur were placed with a Protestant minister at Dungog. He read voraciously, and worked as a bullock-driver, drover, miner, and timber-getter and operated a nursery in Sydney for a time.

By 1911 Maynard had become a wharf labourer in Sydney and an active member of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. He spent much time at the Domain and other public-speaking venues. In the early 1920s he united with his countrymen from the Hunter to make a public protest against the assault on Aboriginal rights; they spoke at local meetings and lobbied the Sydney and regional press. Maynard contacted Elizabeth McKenzie-Hatton, a white woman who was prominent in establishing (1923) a refuge at Homebush to protect Aboriginal ‘apprentices’ who had absconded or been branded ‘incorrigible’. Bitterly opposed by the Aborigines Protection Board and kept under police surveillance, the ‘Home’ functioned for two years. Early in 1925 Maynard and others helped Aboriginal families at Nambucca Heads to rescue their own children from Stuart Island where they were in the board's custody.

While working with politicised overseas seamen, Maynard became interested in ideas circulating internationally. He had connections with the Coloured Progressive Association (CPA), operational in Sydney between 1903 and 1919, and Marcus Garvey’s global black nationalist movement, the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Both Fred Maynard and Tom Lacey were members of the Garvey chapter, operational in Sydney between 1920 and 1924. Garvey’s powerful message of cultural and black pride resonated with the Aboriginal leaders; likewise, the platform for social, political and economic change and self-determination. In 1924 Maynard launched the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association (AAPA), establishing an office in Sydney and officially launching the organisation at Surry Hills the next year at the first ever Aboriginal civil rights convention, attended by over two hundred Aboriginal people. Except for McKenzie-Hatton, who was an honorary affiliate and promoter, the office holders were all Aboriginal and included men from the north coast of New South Wales, including Sid Ridgway as secretary, and Tom Lacy and Dick Johnson from the south coast. The AAPA would hold four conferences (Sydney, Kempsey, Armidale, and Lismore) between 1925 and 1927. The second conference at Kempsey was run over three days at the local showground and attracted seven hundred Aboriginal delegates. The group protested against the revocation of north-coast farming reserves; they also demanded that children no longer be separated from their families or indentured as domestics and menial labourers. The AAPA advocated that all Aboriginal families should receive inalienable grants of farming land within their traditional country, that their children should have free entry to public schools, and that Aboriginal people should control any administrative body affecting their lives.

Members of the association made lengthy organising trips; meetings in New South Wales coastal towns attracted numerous Aboriginal people. Maynard and McKenzie-Hatton wrote letters to the press and to politicians. With Jane Duren, an Aboriginal leader from Batemans Bay, Maynard participated in debates with missionaries and public figures who were proposing changes to the administration of Aboriginal affairs. He wrote to Aboriginal people throughout the State who had been injured by the board's policies, such as young girls who had been raped while indentured.

The Depression and police intimidation and threat undermined the AAPA’s ability to continue its campaigns into the 1930s, but it nevertheless left a lasting and potent legacy. Arguably the forerunner of the Aboriginal activism that followed in Australia, the AAPA inspired emerging Aboriginal activists such as Jack Patten, Pearl Gibbs, Bill Onus, Doug Nicholls, and Bill Ferguson who mounted campaigns for Aboriginal rights in the 1930s and 1940s, as well as later generations of campaigners.

At Darlinghurst, Sydney, on 14 June 1928, Maynard had married with Methodist forms Minnie Critchley, a thirty-two-year-old Englishwoman and the daughter of a miner. He gradually withdrew from public life to provide for his growing family. A reported accident on the docks in the 1930s made it increasingly difficult for him to work. He died of diabetes mellitus on 9 September 1946 at the Mental Hospital, Rydalmere, and was buried with Presbyterian forms in Rookwood cemetery; his wife, two sons, and two daughters survived him. His son Mervyn became a top-class jockey riding over fifteen hundred winners in four countries and was inducted into the Aboriginal Sports Hall of Fame. His grandson John Maynard became one of Australia’s most eminent Aboriginal historians.

♦♦    This article replaces the original Volume 15 ADB biography, authored by Heather Goodall. To view original, see link below.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Goodall, Invasion to Embassy (Syd, 1996)
  • S. Baldwin (ed), Unsung Heroes & Heroines of Australia (Melb, 1988)
  • J. Maynard, Fight for Liberty and Freedom: The Origins of Australian Aboriginal Activism (Canb, 2007)

Other ADB articles for Charles Frederick (Fred) Maynard

Citation details

Heather Goodall and John Maynard, 'Maynard, Charles Frederick (Fred) (1879–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2021, accessed online 20 April 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


4 July, 1879
Hinton, New South Wales, Australia


9 September, 1946 (aged 67)
Rydalmere, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.