One of the most prominent workers who walked off Wave Hill Station in 1966 and helped spark the land rights movement has passed away – two days after the 55th anniversary of the historic strike.

“Cullum Wave Hill was a young man when he joined the strike,” Central Land Council chair Sammy Wilson said.

“He was one of the heroes of the land rights struggle and his sudden death at 85 years of age has left us all heartbroken.”

The CLC delegates, meeting at Mr Wave Hill’s home town of Kalkaringi, observed a minute’s silence at the news of his passing.

“He represented his community on our council for decades and came to greet us all at our meeting only yesterday,” Mr Wilson said.

“We all looked up to him and were hoping he would join us again this afternoon.”

CLC chief executive Lesley Turner said Mr Wave Hill will be missed deeply.

“As a CLC delegate, he was there for all the big milestones of our history. He was passionate about protecting his country and losing him is too sad for words,” Mr Turner said.

“Only last September, he and the other families of striking Wave Hill Station workers celebrated the recognition of their native title rights at Jinbarak, the old station homestead.”

The station was the site of the Wave Hill Walk Off, the strike led by Gurindji stockman Vincent Lingiari that marks the beginning of the land rights movement.