CLC Mourns Passing of Constructive and Positive Chairman

Posted: Tue, August 05, 2014

Kumanjaye Bookie receives the title to part of the Simpson Desert on behalf of the Atnetye Aboriginal Land Trust (2011) (photo: Kumanjaye Hodson)

The Aboriginal flag at the Central Land Council office in Alice Springs is flying at half mast as members and staff mourn the passing on the weekend of former CLC chairman, Mr Kumanjaye Bookie. 

Mr Bookie was as respected for his knowledge of Eastern Arrernte law and culture as he was for putting his ideas into action.

Central Land Council Director David Ross said that Mr Bookie did not just talk the talk, he “made real” the promise of land rights by running an award winning cultural tourism business on his country at Batton Hill, on the northern edge of the Simpson Desert.

“Mr Bookie believed in private enterprise as a way out of dependency and, in partnership with his business associate Mr Jol Fleming, actually put his belief into practice”, he said.

Mr Bookie served as the CLC’s chairman from 2006 until 2012, winning three elections in a row. Members and staff fondly remember his humour, generosity and optimism.  

“He was a constructive and positive leader who was willing to get on with and work with everyone for the greater good of achieving outcomes for Aboriginal people”, said Mr Ross.

“He was often frustrated about the social problems our people are facing but he never let them forget about the good things that were happening during his tenure, for example the employment opportunities that come with the handing back of the NT national parks to their traditional owners and the CLC’s ground breaking ranger and community development programs.”

As a claimant in the successful Simpson Desert land claim he understood the benefits of land rights and memorably summed up the CLC’s role like this:

“The land council is our Alkwerte, like our shield. We use the shield for ceremony and the land council is our main body we come to with problems and issues. That’s what it represents, the land council, protection.”

“Mr Bookie brought a wealth of practical and political experience to his role of chairman. He worked on pastoral properties, served as a community police officer and as the CLC’s field officer at Atitjere (Harts Range). He represented the Bonya region on the ATSIC Regional Council and the Bonya Regional Health Council”, said Mr Ross.

“He was also passionately opposed to the now abandoned nuclear waste dump proposal at Muckaty Station, which he felt was bad for tourism.”

His passing will be felt not just in Central Australia but also in Queensland where he had strong connections.

The thoughts of CLC members and staff are with his wife, Ms Caroline Dixon, and their children Cyril, Tanya, Wayne and Kevin.