Australia’s Aboriginal ‘Giant of Nation’ Yunupingu Dies at 74

Mon Apr 03 2023
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SYDNEY: Yunupingu, one of Australia’s most powerful Aboriginal leaders, died in the Northern Territory at 74. Yunupingu was a trailblazer in the fight for indigenous land rights and constitutional recognition in Australia. He passed away after a long illness. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese led the tributes to the Gumatj clan chief, calling him a great leader and statesman.

Yunupingu walked in two worlds of authority, power, and grace, according to Albanese, and he worked to make them whole. He stated that he now walks in another place but has left such wonderful tracks for us to follow.

Aboriginal leader rose to prominence

Yunupingu rose to prominence in the 1960s land rights movement and was involved in the first Australian legal case that tested First Nations people’s native title rights. Yunupingu went on to advise successive governments and was celebrated as a singer, artist, and promoter of Indigenous culture over the next fifty years.

He was instrumental in forming the Northern Land Council, representing traditional owners in the Top End of Northern Territory. He also assisted in establishing the Yothu Yindi Foundation, one of the leading advocacy organizations for Aboriginal Australians. In 1978, he was named Australian of the Year, and in 1985, for his services to the Aboriginal community, he was awarded an order of Australia medal for his services.

In recent years, he had also advocated for Indigenous peoples’ constitutional recognition through the Voice to Parliament campaign, on which a national referendum will be held later this year. Binmila Yunupingu, his daughter, said her father’s death was a devastating loss.

Yunupingu, she said, spent his entire life on his land, surrounded by the sounds of bilma (clapsticks), yidaki (didgeridoo), and our people’s manikay (sacred song) and dhulang (sacred designs). She said he was born on our land and died on our land, assured that his life’s work was secure.

Yunupingu was described as a “a giant of the nation” by the Yothu Yindi Foundation. According to a spokesperson, he was first and foremost a leader of his people whose welfare was his most pressing concern and responsibility.

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