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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4452

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (16:38): I rise to add my comments to the condolence motion on Australian musician James Oswald Little OA or, as we know him, Jimmy Little. I wish to pay my respects on the passing of this outstanding singer, songwriter and guitarist whose remarkable career spanned six decades. Jimmy Little was born in 1937 as a member of the Yorta Yorta people. His parents, Frances and James Little Sr, were both entertainers and he grew up on the Murray River in New South Wales, near Echuca, in Victoria. Of his upbringing Jimmy said his parents:

… taught me well about the value of life, freedom, love, respect, all those basic things that we need. As Vaudevillians, I loved them. It was part of my dream to follow in the footsteps of Mum and Dad. And I'm so proud that I was able to do that …

Music was a big part of Jimmy's life and at the age of 13 he was given a guitar. Within a year he was playing at regular concerts and by 16 had moved to Sydney to perform on a radio program Australia's Amateur Hour and to pursue a career in country music. Back then, Jimmy was influenced by greats such as Nat King Cole, Jim Reeves and Johnny Mathis and was given the nicknames 'the Balladeer' and 'Gentleman Jim' for his unique mellow style. Of his many successful releases, Jimmy's gospel song Royal Telephone sold over 75,000 copies and his most popular album, Messenger, hit No. 26 in 1999 on the ARIA albums chart. That same year, Jimmy was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame and won an ARIA award for 'Best Adult Contemporary Album'. In 2004, on Australia Day, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for service to the entertainment industry.

In between making and selling music, Jimmy dabbled in acting, appearing in the films Shadow of the Boomerang in 1960 and Until the End of the World in 1991. He also worked as a teacher, mentoring Indigenous music students in Redfern, and took on the role of guest lecturer at the University of Sydney's Koori Centre in 2000. Music was always his passion, and he spent many years, from 2001 onwards, working with many high-profile performers, such as Paul Kelly, Bernard Fanning, Brendan Gallagher and Dave Graney.

Being a diabetic with a heart condition, however, posed a few problems, and in 2004 he underwent surgery for a kidney transplant. It was this experience that eventually led him to establish the Jimmy Little Foundation to help the many other Indigenous Australians who, like him, suffered from kidney disease. In fact, it was through this foundation that Jimmy had the biggest impact on the Northern Territory. The foundation works with patients in regional and remote Australia and partnered with the Fred Hollows Foundation in 2009 to develop the Thumbs Up! nutrition program, which is focused on remote communities. It aims to promote healthy eating, education and information and works in association with project partners the Arnhem Land Progress Association, the Australian Red Cross and the Northern Territory department of education. A pilot program is currently operating in Ramingining, Gapuwiyak, Galiwinku and Milingimbi, and uses music, multimedia workshops, concerts and cooking with senior community women to get the message across to children.

According to the reports, the Jimmy Little Foundation is funding a mobile renal dialysis unit to be built and then operated by the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation—WDNWPT. This vehicle will be on the road servicing remote communities with vital renal treatment that will allow people to stay in their community while receiving life-sustaining dialysis. On his passing, the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory said:

At AMSANT we will always remember his role as an Elder for Aboriginal health. Despite the personal sacrifices and pain he experienced, he became a vital ambassador for those of us who endure kidney disease, and all that goes with it. Although he was too ill to attend, he was a strong supporter of the AMSANT Fresh Food Summit in Tennant Creek in 2010. The work of the Jimmy Little Foundation in backing the importance of good nutrition will be yet another legacy of his life and commitment. He was an inspiration with his gentle leadership to our staff here at Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory on his visit to our office.

Jimmy Little was a remarkable person who worked to progress the Aboriginal cause and is an inspiration to other Indigenous people across the country. May Jimmy rest in peace and his music live on.