Coolbaroo Club Perth

The Coolbaroo Club was an Aboriginal social club established to counter prejudice and segregation in post-war Perth. It operated between 1946 and 1960.

The Coolbaroo Club covered many aspects of social life, initially from recreational activities like music and dance to creating greater social awareness and, later, co-operative community, accommodation and political activism [1].

The club was founded in 1946 by returned Yamatji soldiers Jack and Bill Poland, Geoff Harcus, a non-Aboriginal army comrade, and Helena Clarke. It was best known for the dances they held on Friday and Saturday nights outside of the ‘Prohibition Area’ of the city at the Edward Street Pensioners’ Hall in East Perth, called the Coolbaroo Club.

‘Coolbaroo’ is a Yamatji word for magpie and was adopted to sum up the idea of the club’s founders of bringing people together from different backgrounds, in a friendly, inclusive atmosphere.

The Coolbaroo Club was Aboriginal-run and owned, and flourished with strong community support from elders such as William Bodney, Thomas Bropho and Bertha Isaacs [1].

The club grew in popularity in the 1950s in the face of systemic government racism and despite ongoing attention from police enforcing liquor bans. It drew hundreds of Aboriginal and other supporters.

Among the artists performing were drummer Ronnie Kickett, singer Gladys Bropho, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Harold Blair and the Harlem Globetrotters.

In the late 1940s police closed the club, but it reopened as the Coolbaroo League Dance Club in the early 1950s under a new constitution [2].

From 1952 to 1957 the club published The Westralian Aborigine newspaper and lobbied against the Prohibited AReas Policy, which was rescinded in 1954, allowing them to use the Perth Town Hall for their annual ball.

The Coolbaroo Club closed in the early 1960s, but the leaders went on to form the Aboriginal Advancement Council in 1965, and remained a voice for social change [1].

[The Coolbaroo Club] was an enjoyable thing and everyone looked forward to going there on a Friday or Saturday night… they used to hold a ball during Royal Show week in September and on New Year's Eve as well.—Albert Corunna, Palyku/Nyoongar elder [2]

Edward Street in East Perth where the Coolbaroo Club used to be.



View article sources (2)

1. ^ a b c ‘Coolbaroo Club reunion proves popular in Perth’, Koori Mail 503 p.29
2. ^ a b ‘Coolbaroo is remembered’, Koori Mail 456 p.40

Cite this article

An appropriate citation for this document is:, Coolbaroo Club Perth, retrieved 31 May 2020