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Community mourns loss of Mr Wilson, champion of Country and the rights of Traditional Owners

Giovanni Torre -

Members of the Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation and broader community have expressed great sadness at the sudden passing of the Corporation's chairperson, Mr Wilson.

Mr Wilson - Jabarda, jungai and proud Gudanji-Wambaya man - was praised as a caring father and grandfather. He lived with his partner Elizabeth Presley on his much loved Country in Lightning Ridge, just off the Carpentaria Highway, surrounded by his family of dogs.

Nurrdalinji Deputy Chairman, Uncle Samuel Janama Sandy, said Mr Wilson defended the rights of Traditional Owners to protect and care for country, water and culture and keep them safe for future generations.

"He stood firm for what he believed in and constantly lifted up and supported others to do the same," he said.

"Mr Wilson was a man who showed great strength and courage in the face of extraordinary pressures, in particular the looming threat of the destruction of country by gas mining in the Beetaloo Basin.

"It tore at his heart and made Mr Wilson sad to know how fracking might damage what he had a responsibility to protect. But he used this threat as his fire, working to ensure that country, law and culture could be preserved and passed on for future generations."

Mr Sandy described Mr Wilson as "a talented and powerful orator".

"He spoke with pride in the defence of his country and challenged those who do not care to listen to Traditional Owners' concerns. Importantly, he always did this with respect, grace and humility," he said.

"Mr Wilson… called for public money to be spent not on fracking but on our communities to make them stronger. He worried about how his people would be properly represented.

"Mr Wilson always spoke from the heart, bringing to life the need to protect that which makes us who we are."

The late Nurrdalinji chairperson was hailed as "one of a kind", a man who "loved his family and community and was loved by his family and community in return".

"His courageous leadership offered hope to so many," Mr Sandy said.

"We will miss him, but we will honour his memory by standing strong and continuing the fight to defend country, because this - we are certain - is what Mr Wilson would have wanted."

In his tribute, Mr Sandy shared two statements from Mr Wilson:

"When my people were first told about fracking they said these holes are going to be the size of billy cans, one hole and that's it, we're just going to look over your Country, just sign this paper. Little did they know they were signing a document that was a hook line and sinker situation.

"We do not want fracking on our country, full stop. Our cultural heritage and our sacred sites are so important to us—our songlines, our dreaming and our water. Our water is our life. When that is contaminated, we are nothing. Where is our future?"

Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation members include native title holders and Traditional Owners from the Amungee Mungee, Beetaloo, Hayfield, Kalala, Newcastle Waters - Murranji, Nutwood Downs, Shenandoah, Tandyidgee, Tanumbirini, Daly Waters Township, Ucharonidge native title determinations.

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