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Performing Arts

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Harold Blair

Harold Blair

Harold Blair (1923 – 1976) was an Australian tenor and Aboriginal activist. He was born in Queensland and separated from his mother at the age of two when she was sent out to work as a domestic servant. The boy was then cared for by Salvation Army staff who moved him into the girls' dormitory where he stayed until he was five years old. Harold was then transferred to the boys' dormitory and began his limited formal education. Harold was almost 16 before he left Purga. In 1942 he was sent to work in the canefields of Childers in the Bundaberg Region of Queensland during WWII.

Harold had been singing and entertaining at Purga and he continued this while working in the canefields. In 1945 he married and left for the United States where he studied singing. Back in Australia, Blair studied part-time and worked in a Melbourne department store until in 1956 he was teaching part-time at the Albert Street conservatorium. He travelled to Europe 3 years later, and did a range of jobs in Australia to support his family while continuing to sing.

In 1967 Blair became a music teacher in the Victorian Department of Education. He performed in the first opera put on at the new Sydney Opera House in 1973 and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1976. Harold Blair took on projects to improve the situation for Aboriginal Australians. One of these was the Aboriginal Children’s Holiday Project, which provided holidays in Melbourne for 3000 children living on Queensland missions.

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