Land Rights network mourns the loss of Sol Bellear AM

30 November 2017 

The Land Rights network has lost one of its most respected and revered legends, Sol Bellear AM, who has passed away.

Sol, a Bundjalung man from Mullumbimby, was a relentless fighter for Aboriginal Land Rights and for justice. 

Over five decades, Sol's achievements are considerable. Sol was the inaugural Chair of the Aboriginal Legal Service, Chair of the community-controlled Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern, founding member of the Aboriginal Housing Company and served as Deputy Chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in the 1990s. 

In 1999, Sol was awarded an Order of Australia for services to the Aboriginal community.

As a Land Rights warrior, Sol was at the Black Theatre at Redfern in 1977 when the NSW Aboriginal Land Council was first formed and he continued to serve as a senior strategist right up to his passing.

An uncompromising fighter for Aboriginal rights, Sol was at the front and centre of marches for Land Rights and was involved in the Tent Embassy movement in the 1970s.

He was inspired by Aboriginal freedom fighters like William Cooper, Jack Patten and William Ferguson and recently spoke at a function to raise funds for a statue in honour of William Ferguson.

Sol was also involved in and inspired by social justice movements for First Nations Peoples in North America, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and spent time working in solidarity with the Black Panther movement in the United States.

Away from politics, Sol lived and breathed rugby league. He was graded for his beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs and later served as a Director for the club.

Sol was a permanent fixture at the Koori Knockout, representing the Redfern All Blacks at the first Knockout in 1971 before stints with the Louis Street Dodgers and Wollumbin Warriors.

In recent years Sol was a manager and mentor to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rugby league players representing the Indigenous All Stars.

Sol was courageous, determined, respected, trusted and generous with a great sense of humour. He was a fighter, a savvy political operator, skilled diplomat, mentor, a dear friend and family man.

Despite playing such a crucial role in the history of Aboriginal Land Rights and the rights movement, Sol remained humble - always focused on the unfinished business of self-determination and improving the lives of Aboriginal people.

Within days of recovering from a major health scare just last year, Sol had already planned a major health campaign for Aboriginal health. At the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Sol was applying his vast knowledge and strategic nous to policy areas like constitutional recognition and a Treaty process in New South Wales.

Although he had achieved so much for Aboriginal people, Sol had much more to give.

The Land Rights network will always remember Sol and be inspired by everything he has achieved and given to all First Nations peoples in Australia and internationally.