Mabel Crouch (Campbell) and Edna Newfong (Crouch). Queensland Women Cricketing Greats.

Today the 8th March is International Women Day and to celebrate this event I would like to focus on the sporting career and history of two Aboriginal women cricketers named Mabel Campbell and Edna Newfong from the Quandamooka people of Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island) Queensland.

The Queensland Women’s Cricket Association was founded in the 1920’s, but only began formally in 1929, with Edna and Mabel joining the Wynnum Women’s Cricket team. 

Left: Edna Newfong and Right: Mabel Crouch in an Obstacle Race. 

Photo from the book; Black diamonds : Queensland's indigenous sporting heroes. Colin & Paul Tatz, Ipswich Qld, Global Arts Link, Ipswich City Council, 2001, page 272.
 

Edna Newfong and Mabel Crouch were first cousins and the first Indigenous women to represent Australia in any sport. It was a major achievement in the 1930s as Aboriginal women had to face both racist and sexist disadvantages, all the while being under the control of the Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897, which legally restricted civil rights to Aboriginal people.

Incredibly, despite these challenges Edna and Mabel were included in the International Queensland Women's Cricket team during the first tour of the English Women's Cricket Team in 1934-1935.

The John Oxley Library holds within its collection a rare piece of ephemera from this tour, The visit of English women cricketers to Queensland 1934-35: souvenir and official programme produced by the Queensland Women's Cricket Association. Another one of our John Oxley Library blogs, First women's international cricket test match, Brisbane, 1934 talks more about this piece ephemera and the tour.

Souvenir and official programme of the visit of the English Women Cricketers to Queensland 1934-35. Centre page showing Mabel and Edna Crouch name.

1934 Queensland women's cricket team. The home team to meet England on Saturday. 16 December 1934, Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1926 - 1954), p. 5.

There is not much information about this game except what is mentioned in Colin Tazt's book, Obstacle race : Aborigines in sport, page 271,  “One magazine report says the game was played in waterlogged conditions and in this match, Miss E. Crouch had surprising bowling averages”. 

What is interesting is the fact that cricket was the launching pad  for Aboriginal people into the white Eurocentric sporting world, with an Australian Aboriginal cricket team as the first organised group of Australians to visit England in 1868

Edna Newfong (Crouch) Biography

Edna Crouch, a descendant of the Ngugi people of Moreton Bay, was born on the 22nd November 1915 and the daughter of Rebecca Elizabeth Campbell and Alfred Crouch. She married Ben Archie Newfong (Archibald Nu Fong) on the 21 March 1942, a Queensland heavyweight boxer champion.

The Queensland Birth, Death and Marriage register notes Edna’s siblings as:

  • Charles Edwin Campbell Owen [b1863]
  • Ivy Charlotte Crouch [b 1899]
  • Victor Claud Crouch [b 1900]
  • Gilbert Crouch [b 1901]
  • Glen Alfred Crouch [b 1904] “Paddy”
  • Grace Crouch [b 1906]
  • Robert Edward Crouch [b 1908]

The Crouch family has a long association with playing sport in the Wynnum district, Edna wasn't the only sporting champion. Her brothers Robert and Glen, and Glen's son Glen Junior, played for the Wynnum-Manly Rugby League team.  Glen Crouch “Paddy” was a top centre who had also played for Coorparoo Rugby League team. He toured New Zealand with the 1925 Queensland Rugby League team, rated by many as the finest team to ever tour New Zealand.

Edna played for Queensland in Women’s Cricket from 1934 to 1938. Thelma Crouch stated that in the 1938 championships Edna ‘bowled with perfect length, and her slow ball had many of the batswomen in trouble”.

Not much is written about Edna after this event, but her son John Newfong (3 November 1943 – 30 May 1999) became an Aboriginal activist, journalist and editor of Identity (Indigenous magazine). John was the first to properly leverage the power of international pressure and media support for Aboriginal cause. This was an important factor behind the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972 at Parliament House in Canberra, where he was chief spokesperson. John was an openly proud gay man. To Indigenous gays and lesbians he was a significant role model, being the only openly homosexual Aboriginal leader in the Aboriginal movement, he was able to confront homophobia and hypocrisy in the mainstream and Aboriginal communities, with courage and dignity.

John was a fantastic role model for Aboriginal people and because of his achievements he was inducted into the Australian Media Hall of Fame.

 

Mabel Crouch (Campbell) Biography

Mabel Dorothy Crouch (Campbell), was a descendant of the Quandamooka people, from Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island), Queensland. She was born on the 1st July 1908 and died on the 8th February 1957. Mabel Campbell was the daughter of Helen Brown and Frederick Campbell.  On the 21st May 1927 she married Sidney Ernest Shillington Crouch (b.1904 – d.1964), the son of Jessie Switzer and Sidney Ernest Crouch.

The Queensland Birth, Death and Marriage register notes Edna’s siblings as:

  • Frederick Foster Campbell [b 1910],
  • Leslie Campbell [b 1901]
  • Edmund Robert Campbell [b 1904]
  • Cyril George Campbell [b 1908]
  • Kathleen Campbell [b 1913]
  • Charles Fredrick Campbell [b 1905]

Sidney Ernest Shillington Crouch was a cousin to rugby league star Paddy Crouch, who was Edna Newfong (Crouch) brother.

Mabel played for Queensland in Women's Cricket from 1934 to 1936. During the England Women's Cricket team tour of Australia in 1934-35 Mabel topped the batting averages in the England versus Queensland matches.  In the 1936 interstate carnival, Mabel scored 56 not out against the champions, Victoria (Obstacle race : Aborigines in sport, Colin Tatz, pg 34).

 

Both women should be celebrated on this international day of women, for their contribution and leadership in the field of sports.

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