NLC is saddened by the death of Mr Wunungmurra
THE Northern Land Council is deeply saddened by news of the death of its immediate past chairman, Mr Wunungmurra, who passed away this afternoon at Gove Hospital.
Mr Wunungmurra retired as NLC chairman in late 2013, having served two three-year terms.
His successor, Mr Samuel Bush-Blanasi, said Mr Wunungmurra was an Aboriginal leader of high degree, whose wise counsel was always respected.
“Only last weekend, Mr Wunungmurra was honoured at the Garma Festival as a Yolngu Hero,”
Mr Bush-Blanasi said. “The citation of that award described him as one of the greatest of modern Yolngu leaders and a trusted confidant of many.
“With the passing of Mr Wunungmurra, the whole Northern Territory community has lost a leader of great distinction. He was a kind and beautiful man, and on behalf of the Northern Land Council I extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.
“Mr Wunungmurra was a signatory to the 1963 Yirrkala Bark Petitions, and he never ceased to be a forceful advocate for Aboriginal rights.
“In his last report as NLC chairman, Mr Wunungmurra wrote that land and culture underpinned the existence and survival of Aboriginal people, and he said the NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act had to be protected and preserved.
“And his long-term hope and vision expressed in that report was that the hard-won recognition of Aboriginal people and their land rights would be embedded in the Australian Constitution. Sadly, he has died without that hope and vision having been realised.”
Mr Wunungmurra was born of the Dhalwangu clan. His homeland was Gurrumurru and his special totem was wurran, the diving cormorant.
As a young man, he attended Methodist Bible College in Brisbane and returned home to assist the Yolngu clans during the historic Gove Land Rights case in 1971. He was an educator and a teacher at Yirrkala.
Mr Wunungmurra served with distinction as the Chairman of Layhnapuy Homelands, the Yambirrpa School Council and, from 2007 to 2013, the Northern Land Council.