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Former Northern Land Council chair Dr Bush-Blanasi to be farewelled at state funeral

Callan Morse -

Former Northern Land Council chairman, Dr Bush-Blanasi will be farewelled at a state funeral on Friday.

A proud Yolngu and Mayili man, Dr Bush-Blanasi was a renowned advocate and inspirational leader for Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory and Australia.

The 2023 Northern Territory Australian of the Year died last month, aged 61.

In offering condolences on behalf of the Northern Territory Government to Dr Bush-Blanasi's family, clan groups and members and staff of the Northern Land Council, Northern Territory chief minister, Natasha Fyles said the state funeral will honour the Indigenous leader's contribution to the Territory and a legacy that will never be forgotten.

"Dr Bush-Blanasi was a true leader. Someone who had a commanding presence who was listened too. He preserved culture and made sure others understood its importance," Ms Fyles said.

Following his passing, tributes poured in from across the nation for the fierce Aboriginal land rights advocate.

They included from Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation chair, Ian Hamm, who recognised his longtime contribution to Northern Australia's Indigenous communities.

"Dr Bush-Blanasi's strength was truly admirable, and his passing will be felt by many," Mr Hamm said.

"His time at the NLC was a significant part of his career, having served a total of nine terms, with four of those as the Chair".

Reconciliation Australia said Dr Bush-Blanasi will be remembered as someone who did not flinch from telling the truth to power and was never afraid to speak up to politicians and bureaucrats.

"His skills and strengths as a passionate advocate for his people have left a legacy for Top End Northern Territory communities to build on," they said.

"He was uncompromising in his advocacy for Aboriginal rights in the Northern Territory and across Australia."

In addition to his longterm contribution to the Northern Land Council, Dr Bush-Blanasi served on numerous boards including the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance, Imparja, and Northern Building Consultants.

He was also a founding member of the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists, Aboriginal Sea Company, Aboriginal Housing Northern Territory, Top End Aboriginal Bush Broadcasting Association, and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Investment Corporation.

Following his passing, the Northern Land Council said Dr Bush-Blanasi was a strong advocate for land and sea rights, as well as educating young Indigenous peoples through two way learning.

"He was a passionate supporter of two way learning through the Learning on Country Program which allowed Aboriginal children living in remote communities a better opportunity to navigate the world while keeping strong in their culture," the NLC said, via a statement.

"His contribution to the fight for sea rights enhanced the recognition of traditional ownership of Aboriginal people across the NT coastline."

The state funeral for Dr Bush-Blanasi will be held at the Territory Netball Stadium in Marrara on Friday 15 December from 10:30am.

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