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Monday, 3 June 2013
Page: 4779


Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (14:04): on indulgence—I echo the words of Minister Garrett. Both he and I had the privilege of being with Mr Yunupingu on many occasions in the work that he did, and so the special relationship showed the character of an individual that was so rich, so powerful and yet so loving of all Australians.

Australia has suffered a great loss in the passing of Mr Yunupingu; a musician, an educator and a leader within Indigenous Australia. This former Australian of the Year was a great advocate for education and, during his life, achieved so much in bringing together Australians of all walks of life in common understanding and goals for the future.

Many Australians may not realise that beyond leaving an incredible gift to Australia in the form of Yothu Yindi's music, including that incredible song Treaty, we have also been given the gift of an incredible legacy in education. Graduating, as the minister said, as one of the first Aboriginal people from Arnhem Land to gain a university degree, Mr Yunupingu worked first as a teacher and then as an Aboriginal principal in the Northern Territory. This began an incredible journey to increase awareness about Aboriginal Australians and bring all Australians closer together in a combined vision for our nation's future—a vision that continued until death and that I hope will continue in Australia's collective consciousness far into the future.

It is a journey that included contributing to the public debates on education and his work to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, particularly in the areas of health where, through his own suffering of renal failure, he brought to the minds of many around him and of those within the medical profession the need to provide models of care for renal disease in a way that is very different from that of a hospital.

Mr Yunupingu brought with him an insight into learning which led to an innovative approach to education and which incorporated both Western and Aboriginal approaches—standards which still inform education practices in rural and remote regions of our country today. Mr Yunupingu's journey in 1992 saw recognition of his contribution to education when he was awarded Australian of the Year for his role in 'building bridges of understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people'.

I recall the time I stood with him on the banks of the Swan River, sharing my thoughts on his vision, what could be and what should be for the future of our great nation for all Australians including the role and place of Indigenous Australians within our society. To me and so many others who knew him personally, he was an inspiration. One quote in particular highlights the passion and belief that he had in all Australians. He said:

Australia will become a model for other global communities. … I see Australians coming together from all walks of life, especially Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia, for a better tomorrow. We need to lock in to one another's point of view.

I hope that we can continue in this vein, and I hope that we can benefit from our combined wisdom and that in the near future Australia will be the model for others around the world for the way in which all Australians work together. Mr Yunupingu, thank you for making our lives so much richer.