28 September 2017
Vale William Bates
The Land Rights network has lost one of its greatest fighters in William Bates who passed away this week.
A Barkandji man, William Bates was a Land Rights legend, a leader, mentor and educator.
NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Chair Roy Ah-See said William Bates was at the centre of the pivotal moments in the Land Rights struggle.
"William Bates was a key leader in the blockade of the Mutawintji National Park in September 1983 and was a pioneer in Land Rights and legal rights.
"William Bates was as comfortable leading a blockade as he was negotiating across the table to achieve the best deal for his people."
His many achievements included: first NSWALC Councillor for Western Region, inaugural director of the Western Regional Land Council, Councillor on Central Darling Shire, Chair of Wilcannia Working Party, Chair of Murdi Paaki and he was involved with Maari Ma Health.
"The Mutawintji blockade was a defining moment in our struggle for Land Rights and emboldened others to take action for the return of land and the protection of our culture and heritage."
"William's proudest moment would be the return of Mutawintji to traditional owners and as chair of the Board of Management, he was instrumental in the recent purchase of Nuntherungie Station which almost doubled the size of Mutawintji National Park.
"They achieved this by saving rent money through the lease of the National Park to the State Government."
NSWALC Councillor William Murray also reflected on his friendship with William Bates which started in 1965.
"We met when we were around 16 years old, picking grapes at Dareton. After that, we both went to the Department of Main Roads at Wilcannia, and then the newly-formed Western Aboriginal Legal Service. William was a field officer, and I was a director on the Board."
Cr Murray said one of William Bates' strongest assets was his ability to get to the heart of a matter, and find solutions.
"He was a straight shooter, there was no beating about the bush with William. He was always deeply involved with his community. He really influenced me and many others to stand up for what we believe in, say our piece and take action".
Cr Murray says William Bates' legacy includes a major land claim at Winbar Station west of Bourke, and the Western Region Local Aboriginal Land Councils' combined purchases of three other large properties.
"William was integral to buying those properties, with his legal knowledge, and grassroots community knowledge. All of us pooled our resources to buy Weinteriga Station, then Appin Station near Menindee and Auley Station near Balranald.
Cr Murray said William Bates leaves a legacy as direct as he was.
"William stood for land rights and equal opportunities for Aboriginal people. He spent his whole life fighting for our land and our rights. He loved his family and leaves a strong group of people who are carrying on his work".