House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Statements by Members

Yunupingu, Dr M

1:45 pm

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Health Services and Indigenous Health) Share this | Hansard source

Our nation pauses, as does this parliament, with the loss earlier today of Mr Yunupingu—a very unexpected loss to the Northern Territory and to his Yolngu people. Mr Yunupingu was a leader, a giant in this nation and a leader in music. Many will remember his contributions with Yothu Yindi—'mother and child'—and his song Treaty, which, in 1992, stopped a nation and has become an anthem in beer gardens ever since.

He opened the eyes of Australians to the needs of Aboriginal Australia. He was the first Yolngu man with a university degree. He became a teacher, assistant principal and principal in Yirrkala. He went on to be recognised in the ARIA Hall of Fame in December, last year. Tragically, though, in 2007 he was diagnosed with chronic renal failure, a battle that has tied him to thrice-weekly dialysis for a number of years, both in Darwin and, more recently, in his homeland.

He unceasingly had a passion for fighting renal failure. As recently as a month ago he convened a two-day meeting in his own community to find a regional solution to this scourge that afflicts Aboriginal Australia. He will be remembered for his music. He leaves a wife, Gurruwun, his six daughters and his five grandsons. As he said in his very own words:

I am … Yunupingu. I am a crocodile man. I am also the song writer and lead singer with the band Yothu Yindi. My name Yunupingu means 'rock', a rock that stands against time. Fire is my clan symbol. Fire is my life force. We must connect with old people, we need to tap into their wisdom. The hearts of Aboriginal women are crying for their culture.

Our nation today cries out for him and supports him, his people and his community at this great loss.


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