Tributes flow for fearless advocate Kwementyaye Tilmouth

Posted: Mon, March 02, 2015

Mr Tilmouth during his time as CLC director.

CLC director, David Ross, today paid tribute to former CLC director Kwementyaye Tilmouth, who passed away on Saturday, aged 62.

“Kwementyaye was an absolutely fearless advocate for his people,” said David Ross. “He predicted the Abbott government’s current attack against their hard won land rights.”

Mr Ross said Mr Tilmouth’s parting words, after six years at the helm of the CLC (1994-1999), have proved prescient.

“He said: ‘Aboriginal peoples’ rights which are not protected constitutionally are vulnerable to government whims of the day. I expect Aboriginal people to be fighting just as hard in the new millennium as we have to date’.”

“Kwementyaye’s fight against John Howard’s attempt to weaken the Aboriginal Land Rights Act with the help of the now discredited Reeves Review foreshadowed our challenge of the Abbott government’s attempt to undermine our land rights through an ideologically driven investigation,” Mr Ross said.

In 1998 Mr Tilmouth brought together 800 Central Australian Aboriginal leaders in a constitutional convention near the site of the historic Wave Hill Walk Off.

In the convention’s Kalkaringi Statement they detailed their concerns with the governance of the Northern Territory and decided to oppose NT statehood until they were addressed.

Mr Tilmouth’s irreverent wit endeared him to his many friends on both sides of politics but did not spare his own side, the Australian Labor Party.

A few years after withdrawing his nomination to run for Senator Bob Collins’ seat he famously said of his party: ''I'm allowed to mow the lawns, but I'm not allowed on the verandah.''

An Arrernte man from Alice Springs, Mr Tilmouth was a small boy when welfare authorities took him and his brothers away to the notorious Retta Dixon home in Darwin and later the mission on Croker Island, off the coast of Arnhem Land.

He attended high school in Darwin and spent his early working life at Angus Downs cattle station.

In the 1970s Mr Tilmouth helped to establish the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service and a community controlled health service, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. From 1977 he was a community advisor at Kaltukatjara, Utopia, Papunya and Yuendumu.

A qualified stock inspector with a degree in Science and Natural Resource Management, he also worked for the Aboriginal Development Commission on a number of cattle projects and was the instigator of the former Central Australian Aboriginal Pastoralists Association.

Mr Ross said Mr Tilmouth walked the talk about Aboriginal economic development.

He established a commercial prawn farm on the Darwin River and worked as a consultant with large mining companies, helping traditional owners secure employment and other benefits. Mr Tilmouth also served on the boards of several large Indigenous representative groups.

“The thoughts of CLC members and staff are with Kwementyaye’s family at this sad time,” said Mr Ross.


Monday, 2 March 2015


Contact Steve Hodder, (08) 8951 6215, 0488 984 885,