Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4453


Mr HUNT (Flinders) (16:44): I wish to briefly pay tribute to the life, work and in particular the role of Jimmy Little in the advancement of Indigenous Australia. Jimmy Little was a musician but, like so many of those trailblazers for Indigenous Australia, he was involved in either the arts or sport. We can point to many, but he was one of the quartet of Indigenous Australians whom I believe were absolutely critical to the advances in the standing and the improvement in the status, the role and the condition of Aboriginal Australia. They came from a situation which was unacceptable, intolerable and which, rightly, should be the subject of deep historical concern. But, at the same time, they said to everybody, 'We can come from this background; there are many families that have thrived and overcome difficulty and each individual has the possibility to live a life of majestic purpose.' To my mind, that quartet comprised: Jimmy Little, who was the most significant and, potentially, the first through his work in music; Lionel Rose, who achieved world champion status as a boxer; Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who, as Evonne Goolagong, was a Wimbledon champion, and who performed around the world and was perhaps the most famous of the quartet; and former Senator Neville Bonner, who became the first Indigenous Australian to enter this parliament in 1971.

When you look across their work, the arts, sport and also parliamentary life, you see that this group, along with many others whom I acknowledge, were fundamental in transforming the role and the status of Indigenous Australia. I am no music critic, as anybody will tell you, but his body of work and his achievements were tremendous. But I want to refer to more than that. He started his recording in 1956, at age 19. He became the first Indigenous Australian to make the top 10 and he had a No. 1 hit in 1963, selling 75,000 copies of Royal Telephone. But it was the acceptance, the love and the respect with which he was held that became a bridge for Aboriginal Australia. In my view, Jimmy Little, amongst others, along with Lionel Rose, played such an important role in Australian consciousness and that was a real contributor to the success of subsequent referenda later on in the decade. There are many reasons to remember Jimmy Little: his music but, in particular, his role in helping Indigenous Australia to break out from old stereotypes, to gain a foothold in the mainstream cultural life of Australia.

The third reason to acknowledge Jimmy Little was his humanitarian work. In 2006, he established the Jimmy Little Foundation off the back of his own kidney failure and kidney transplant. This was a foundation, which among other things, brought renal dialysis mobile units to outback Australia. I cannot say how many individual lives it has helped save, extend or improve, but there is no doubt that there are numerous lives that have either been saved, extended or improved as a result of his work. That is a body of work of itself which would be worthy of commendation, but it is representative of a broader life, which we mourn today but, much more importantly, which we celebrate as a life well lived.