Activist Tracker Tilmouth remembered


Activist Tracker Tilmouth remembered - 12th March 2015

Profiles

Alice Springs Australia

As Darwin's largest cathedral filled with people paying tribute to Aboriginal activist Kwementyaye Tracker' Tilmouth, his daughter Shaneen's words rang true: 'The legacy is huge, almost too big to fill'.

Mr Tilmouth was farewelled at a state funeral on Thursday after dying from cancer on February 28, aged 62.

Taken from his Arrernte family in Alice Springs at the age of three, he was sent to the notorious Retta Dixon home and then to the Croker Island Mission.

From sweeping floors and working as a stockman and builder, Mr Tilmouth became involved in the fight for Aboriginal rights, establishing central Australia's Aboriginal health service and Aboriginal legal aid service, chaired the Central Land Council and was the Labor frontrunner to be preselected as an NT senator in the 1990s before dropping out of the race.

'He was a man respected from the cattleyards to the boardrooms, from the company boardrooms to the ancient ceremonial grounds; he was an extraordinary character,' said Bob Beadman, a former public servant and veteran of indigenous affairs in one of six eulogies.

Mr Tilmouth was remembered as a man ahead of his time, an irreverent stirrer with a sharp tongue who had no time for polite conversation and never backed down from a fight as a fearless advocate for Australia's most disadvantaged people.

'He was just plain brilliant, the best thing of our times,' said novelist Alexis Wright.

'His humour was a great source of life, but sometimes it was like being struck unexpectedly by a bomb; he could leave you flabbergasted by what came out of his mouth... Many Chinese businessmen and UN diplomats are still coming to terms with something Tracker once said to them.'

Jabiluka anti-uranium mining activist Jacqui Katona said Mr Tilmouth was never afraid to share his opinions, calling Queensland's Bjelke-Petersen government the 'biggest bunch of thieves' he'd ever seen, and describing the Labor Party as 'a shit sandwich, and even if it was dressed in a ribbon it was still a shit sandwich'.

He knew everyone, from the most influential leaders to the man on the street, and had time for them all, the congregation heard.

Ms Wright said he had an 'intuitive intelligence that would pour out big ideas one after another', and all the other speakers hailed him as a visionary.

Come to pay their respects were politicians from both sides, including Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, Labor NT MP Warren Snowdon, Senator Nova Peris, former ALP minister Simon Crean, academic Marcia Langton, the heads of the Central and Northern Land Councils, former deputy leader of the Liberals Fred Chaney, and numerous indigenous leaders.

Mr Tilmouth's brother William said his ill health and untimely death were a result of his childhood trauma, and urged governments to listen to Tracker's message on including indigenous people in designing their own future.

'If you didn't hear him when he was alive, hear him now: our people are dying and we are yet to be seated around your table.'

(AAP)