Sad Passing of a True Warrior.
Thursday April 5, 2012
The Aboriginal community throughout Australia will mourn the passing earlier this week of legendary activist Steve Gordon.
He was known throughout Australia as a tireless advocate for the rights of our people for more than four decades.
Raised as one of six children in an old tin shack on a riverbank near the famous Brewarina fishtraps, Mr Gordon left school at fourteen to build fences and work in shearing sheds.
He was appalled by the working conditions he saw around him.
He refused to be paid in tobacco and demanded cash for a stint in one of those shearing sheds.
He soon set out on his lifelong work as a forceful advocate to improve the rights and well being of his Aboriginal brothers and sisters.
In the 1960s he established the Aboriginal Movement in Brewarinna with the "Bush Queen", the late Essie Coffey and the late Tombo Winters.
He recalled establishing the movement because they saw Aboriginal people rounded up on the back of trucks and sent to reserves in appalling conditions.
They resolved to see change in their lifetime and to fight discrimination head on.
They worked with other significant organisations to advance the basic living conditions and to protect the rights of Aboriginal people.
Mr Gordon went on to be appointed the first Aboriginal Ombudsman in NSW and was the first elected Aboriginal person to address the NSW Parliament in June 1997 during a special sitting of the "Black Parliament".
He came to national prominence as an ATSIC Commissioner and was known for successfully advocating, with others, to secure $450 million in Federal Government funding as a response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
He worked to get another $500 million as part of the National Aboriginal Health Strategy.
Mr. Gordon was the longest serving ATSIC Commissioner.
He was elected for five successive terms by the communities in the North West region of NSW.
Following the abolition of the national representative body by the Howard Government he was elected to the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council in May 2007 as the Councillor for the North West Region.
He decided not to seek re-election in 2011 due to declining health.
He was also the mentor of current Chairman, Stephen Ryan.
"He was a strong man in my life, and someone I'll never forget," he said.
"It was a privilege to be elected to continue the vital work of Councillor Gordon," she said today.
"He may be gone but he will never be forgotten.
"It was widely known that ailing health was taking an increasing toll on Steve in recent years but he will always be remembered as a tireless and colourful pioneer in the fight for our rights.
"His passing is a sad day for land rights in New South Wales."
Mr. Gordon's lifelong activism was recognised in 2002 when he was voted National NAIDOC Person of the Year.
While his exploits on behalf of Aboriginal people were legendary he was also famous for his sartorial splendour.
He'd often turn up to events in a red suit, yellow shirt and black tie.