A land rights legend passes on

December 14, 2010

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council today sends its deepest sympathies to the family of Rick Griffiths who sadly passed away this week.

Rick's shock passing has rocked the Aboriginal land rights movement in New South Wales and he'll be sorely missed by the many that called him a friend.

Rick entered black politics by default in 1976 when stopping past a rally in Newcastle to say g'day to relatives.

It was from that first chance gathering that an Aboriginal activist and warrior for black rights was born.

Rick became a staunch advocate for Aboriginal equal rights and later land rights in NSW, bursting onto the political scene in 1982.

He coordinated the Aboriginal Home Care Pilot Program that year with the help of the Awabakal Co-op, which later become a huge success in Aboriginal Affairs.

But his work in community, especially with Mindaribba Local Land Council, extended well beyond social services and land rights.

Rick was a passionate supporter of rugby league and worked to establish an Aboriginal rugby league coaching clinic at the University of Newcastle.

Up to 60 black coaches emerged from the clinic over the years, with many going on to become prominent coaches in their own communities.

Yet perhaps Rick's most enduring achievement in Aboriginal Affairs was his stint as an ATSIC Commissioner in the late nineties.

Rick was responsible for bringing lasting reform to his region during those days, serving as a highly successful representative of his people.

According to close friend Jim Wright, there's barely an Aboriginal person in the land rights network that does not know of the great work of Rick Griffiths.

Jim says he'll remember his best mate for his captivating public speaking, his radical nature and hardline activism on behalf of the country's most disadvantaged people.

Rick was a well-liked community man, a loving family man, and will be remembered for his tireless work ethic and knock-about nature.

NSWALC would like to again express its condolences to the Griffiths clan, and hope Rick's service to the Aboriginal community of NSW will be respected, honoured and celebrated for many years to come.