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Aboriginal Australian lightweight boxing champion, Jack Hassen (1924-2002), was in residential care as a child. 

A Kalkadoon man, Jack Hassen was born in Cloncurry in north-west Queensland. Orphaned at the age of two, he grew up on Palm Island off the coast of Queensland. The Palm Island Aboriginal Settlement was run by the Queensland Government from 1918 until 1975 and included an Industrial School which housed children. 

Jack Hassen began his boxing career as a teenager with Jimmy Sharman who ran a boxing tent business from 1911 until his son took over in 1955.  

The [tent boxing] troupes were an important nursery for both boxers and fans. The showmen…would spot likely fighters for the city stadium promoters and encourage the sport by featuring boxing stars in the troupe. Aboriginal Australian professional champions [including Jack Hassen] had their first fights in the tents as did [some] white Australian champions… (Broome, 3). 

Before moving to Sydney, Hassen fought professionally in Brisbane and Townsville. Training under Ern McQuillan in Sydney, he began fighting at Sydney Stadium in 1948.  

Hassen’s career stalled after he fought Archie Kemp at Sydney Stadium on Monday 19 September 1949 for the Australian Lightweight title and Kemp died in hospital the following morning. 

Jack was never the same after that fight, it hit him hard and his boxing career went downhill. It was reported that in the weeks following Archie’s tragic death, and receiving threats, Jack lost 71 pounds in weight. Six of his eight defeats came after his fight with Archie (Hitchen). 

Hassen retired from boxing in 1951. He then worked on the wharves in Sydney where he was an active member of the Sydney Branch of the Waterside Workers’ Federation from 1963 until he retired in July 1984. 

Jack Hassen had four children with his wife, Norma Simms, and the couple went on to have eighteen grandchildren. 

Jack Hassen was inducted into the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005. 


“Archie Kemp Should Not Have Died, M.L.A. Claims.” The Sunday Herald, 25 September 1949. 

Broome, Richard. “Enduring Moments of Aboriginal Dominance: Aboriginal Performers, Boxers and Runners.” Labour History, no.69 (1995):171-187. 

Broome, Richard. “Theatres of power: Tent boxing circa 1910-1970.” Aboriginal History, no.20 (1996):1-23. 

“Final bells for Gentleman Jack Hassen.” The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 December 2002. 

Hitchen, Mike. “Jack Hassen.” The Old Tin Shed – Sydney Stadium, 2002. 

“Jack Hassen.” Free Journal, 2020. 

Nobbs, Tony. “Jack Hassen: 1925-2002.” East Side Boxing, 2002. 

“Palm Island Aboriginal Settlement (1918-1975).” Find & Connect, 2018. 

Pearson, Luke. “Looking back at the life and times of Aboriginal boxers of yesteryear.” NITV, 2017. 

Image available here.