Thursday, 25 February 2021
Gibson Dan AM, Mr Henry
I rise today to pay tribute to a marvellous, talented and much-loved Far North Queenslander. Former pearl diver, Uncle Henry Gibson, better known as Seaman Dan, passed away peacefully late last year at the age of 92. Seaman Dan rose to national and international prominence at the age of 70, when he first laid down music tracks in the studio. He would go on to become a charismatic and consummate performer who blended traditional Torres Strait Islander and pearling songs with jazz, hula and blues. Seaman Dan's list of musical accolades are long, illustrious and thoroughly well deserved. In 2005, he received the Australia Council for the Arts Red Ochre Award for his outstanding contribution to the development and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture. In 2009, he received the Jimmy Little Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Music, Sport, Entertainment and Community Awards. In 2013, he received a Hall of Fame Award at the National Indigenous Music Awards in Darwin. In 2019, he was awarded the Grant McLennan Lifetime Achievement Award at the Queensland Music Awards. And the awards go on. Last year, Seaman Dan was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to music in the Indigenous community. Seaman Dan was also the oldest award winner in ARIA history, at 75, for his Perfect Pearl album, and again at 80, for his album Sailing Home.
While Seaman Dan may no longer be with us, fortunately his beautiful music and smooth, crooning voice will be with us for eternity. He is a true Australian legend in every sense of the word. Seaman Dan is survived by his living children, Conchetta Mau, William Dan and Elvianna Dorante, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren and even some great-great-grandchildren. I had the opportunity of travelling to Thursday Island to farewell Uncle Seaman Dan. It was a wonderful ceremony, a celebration of a fantastic and colourful life, but it was very sad to see him go. He was a good friend and somebody that I respected immensely. He taught me a hell of a lot about Torres Strait Island culture. I recall being there at different times with the Mill Sisters, singing along to Seaman Dan's music. In fact, at one stage it was suggested I might be the fourth Mill sister! Farewell, my old friend. May you rest in peace.