CLC mourns true champion of land rights
Mr Whitlam in 2001, pictured left with CLC Chair Francis Jupurrurla Kelly, Paddy Japaljarri Simms, Margaret Whitlam and Alice Napanangka Granites.
The Aboriginal flag outside the Central Land Council in Alice Springs is flying at half mast today as Central Australian Aboriginal people mourn the passing of Australia’s 21st Prime Minister, Edward Gough Whitlam.
“Mr Whitlam was really Australia’s first Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, “ said CLC chair Francis Kelly, who met Mr Whitlam in 2001. “He didn’t need to give himself that name because we all know that’s who he was.”
“There are so many Whitlams in our communities who have been given that name in his honour”, said Mr Kelly. “It shows how many people still like and remember him.”
“He was a good and straightforward man and many people are very grateful for the land rights he gave to us,” he said.
CLC director David Ross said the much loved former leader passed away at a critical time for Aboriginal land rights.
“The Aboriginal Land Rights Act Mr Whitlam was preparing to bring in before he was sacked is again under attack from all the usual suspects,” Mr Ross said from Kalkarindji, where Mr Whitlam poured dirt into the hands of the father of land rights, Vincent Lingiari.
“It is doubly sad for this great man to leave us just as his most enduring achievement is once again under threat.”
Mr Ross said the legislation initiated by Mr Whitlam gave Aboriginal people something they had been denied since the arrival of Europeans: power.
“We owe it to him that we have the power to control what happens on our land and have some measure of control over our lives.”
“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”
Images of Mr Kelly and Mr Whitlam are available on request.