Deeply schooled in traditional law through language, song and dance, this extraordinary Aboriginal leader’s voice will not be forgotten

In remembering this extraordinary Aboriginal leader, it is difficult to forget the meaning of his family name, Yunupingu – which in the Gumatj dialect of the Yolŋu Matha language means “the rock that stands against time”.

Across so many decades, Yunupingu’s deeds and actions in the struggles for lands, seas, language and rights have surely reflected the meaning of that name. From his father’s campfire accounts of surviving being shot by Europeans in the 1920s “by a man licensed to do so”, to becoming the longest-serving member and chairman of the powerful Northern Land Council, leading the Yothu Yindi Foundation and hosting the annual Garma festival. His passing leaves an indelible mark far beyond the north-east Arnhem Land home of his people.

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