NSWALC remembers Land Rights Legend Kevin Cook

27 July, 2015

NSWALC remembers Land Rights Legend Kevin Cook

The Land Rights network is mourning the loss of a true Land Rights Legend, Kevin Cook, who passed away over the weekend.

Kevin, also fondly known as "Cookie", was a giant in the Land Rights movement. He was a fighter in the struggle for Land Rights and a leader for the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) as its first elected Chairperson.

He was born and raised at Cringila, near Wollongong. His family is from the Wandandian people, who had close ties with the Yuin and Dharawal language groups.

He strengthened Aboriginal Land Rights - through political struggle as a founding member of the Black Defence Group, as an educator at Tranby College in Sydney's Glebe, and as a strategist who built alliances to place the Land Rights network in the strong position it is in today.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Kevin ensured the Land Rights network found its voice through the Black Defence Group in 1977 as well as broader advocacy movements aimed at building alliances with trade unions, churches and other Aboriginal activists.

The Black Defence Group was the precursor to the establishment of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council in the lead-up to the passage of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1983.

From 1983, Kevin served as the first Chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and led from the front by pressing the State Government to deliver on its commitment to right the wrongs of dispossession of Aboriginal land.

Kevin understood the need to protect Land Rights and to turn the early gains into a long-term future through education, serving as the first Aboriginal General-Secretary of Tranby Aboriginal College in 1981.

Kevin was also active in the trade union movement with the Builders Labourers Federation which was heavily involved in Land Rights, and he raised awareness and solutions to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody. He was also a published author on the history of Land Rights.

Since 2009, senior Aboriginal leaders have delivered an annual lecture named in his honour at Yabun in Sydney, ensuring Kevin's pioneering work is acknowledged and celebrated.

The fact that NSW has the best Land Rights system in Australia is in large part due to the tenacity and vision of true Land Rights Legends like Kevin Cook.

Kevin was a humble man but his achievements are lasting and inspiring to future generations who have the responsibility of continuing his legacy in the Land Rights movement.

Our thoughts are with Kevin's immediate family. All of us in the Land Right network mourn his loss and celebrate his achievements which have made a lasting impact on Aboriginal people in New South Wales.


We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the lands where we work as well as across the lands we travel through. We also acknowledge our Elders past, present and emerging.

Artwork Credit: Craig Cromelin, from a painting he did titled, "4 favourite fishing holes". It is a snippet of his growing years on the Lachlan River, featuring yabby, turtle, fish and family.