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Issue #1455      19 May 2010

Tribute to Judy Chester

This tribute to renowned Aboriginal activist Judy Chester was given by Patrick Dodson (Lingiari Foundation), Jak Ah Kit (Northern Land Council) and David Ross (Central Land Council).

Our sister, who we remember today near the country of her birth, represented a set of values that are in scarce supply in this contemporary society.

Judy (centre) at a school peace festival when Patrick Dodson was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in 2008.

In a world where loyalty and commitment to a set of real values based on the truth of our history is rare, the example that she has given is a lesson for all our young people to consider and try to emulate.

She was staunch in her belief of the causes she promoted and supported, never wavering in the energy that she devoted to their achievement, and as a rock when adversity and dismay crept into the hearts of those less courageous and prepared to compromise the principle.

Hers was the strength of belief that was the hallmark of so many of the Aboriginal leaders who came out of New South Wales in the early days of the last century. Today she will take her place alongside Patten, Ferguson and other great leaders, not because she made great speeches, even though she had a gift for words, not because her writings were published in journals and books, but because she took her place in the frontlines of adversity and provided continuous support and encouragement to all those who stood at the barricades alongside her in solidarity.

Our sister was not constrained by the mediocrity of local prejudices about a people’s worth or where they were from.

She was a believer in national solidarity for her people and all of us from outside New South Wales have felt the warmth of her friendship and encouragement in the search for national outcomes for Indigenous peoples.

Hers was the house of the open door with a welcome mat for all who knocked and convivial company for all who entered – a place of support and respite for all.

To those young people here today there is a great lesson in strength, courage, humility and loyalty to be learnt from the life of this woman. If we are to survive as a people in this Nation then those that come behind us will need to develop and practise the values that were central to the life of this great woman.

From all of us here in the Kimberley, Central and Northern Australia we share with the family your suffering at your loss but also celebrate with you the story of a life well lived and a journey to be emulated by the young people who will take her place in the struggle.

As the sun rises and falls, and the sea comes in and goes out.

We that fly into and out of the eastern states will know that we are accompanied by your great spirit of generosity, care and love as we travel.

As mother earth welcomes you home and to country, we know we will see you in the stars above us at night.


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