Territory Stories

Debates Day 3 - Thursday 21 October 2010



Debates Day 3 - Thursday 21 October 2010

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Parliamentary Record 15


Debates for 11th Assembly 2008 - 2012; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 11th Assembly 2008 - 2012




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES - Thursday 21 October 2010 These were the types of messages Gus Williams was trying to bring forward in his own style. Yes, he supported land rights; however he supported the proper application of land rights. When it was not done properly he became angry. Yes, he would be irascible; yes, he could be grumpy, however he always did so for good cause. My experiences, and the times I spent talking with him taught me about being sure of yourself and speaking your mind when necessary, and keeping your own counsel when necessary. Surprisingly, the arrogance of youth is funny. I thought: Why is this uppity Aboriginal person telling me what to do? It turns out, on reflection, the uppity Aboriginal person had much more to teach me than I could ever have taught him. I place on the record today my personal gratitude to Ntjalka. His life was well lived, honourably lived, and with a sense of purpose and direction which he strove for every day I knew him, through the Ngurratjuta Corporation, through his governance on the Ntaria council, and for his many other roles. Madam Speaker, what do I say in memory of a man like that at the end of his life? Simply two words: Kulla Marrda. Ms McCARTHY (Arnhem): Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to pay my respects to the family and people of Hermannsburg regarding an amazing man. I think of growing up in the Northern Territory and, in particular, in the Borroloola and Gulf regions. When you think of the name Gus Williams, and the Williams family, it is synonymous with music. That music has inspired so many Aboriginal men and women across the Northern Territory. That, in itself, is quite an extraordinary achievement through times of absolute despair throughout the Northern Territory and the history of many peoples lives in the Territory. The impact the Williams family has had, led by Gus, is tremendous. To know that legacy lives on in his children and grandchildren is a testament to the man himself and the extraordinary ability he had throughout his life to not only care, love, and support his family, but to also reach out in teaching black and white people he came across in his life, not just as a musician, also in his incredible leadership capabilities in the Hermannsburg community. When we look at the gap someone like Gus Williams leaves, we look first at the kind of person he was. Resilience is a word which comes to mind for me in the many years I have known the Williams family and, in particular, the many times I had the opportunity to sit down with Gus and talk about different issues. In my previous life as a journalist, I had the opportunity to talk to him about issues he was passionate about as a leading spokesperson in the Hermannsburg region, trying to improve the lives of his own people, and recognising as an Australian we need fair and equitable services for all people, and give hope to not only his descendents, but all he cared for in that region. For more than 30 years, Gus stepped up to the plate to offer this kind of leadership to his community, particularly through the local community council. With the introduction of local government reform our government set a course for further development of local government in the Territory. A better skilled and better organised local government sector in the bush needed to deliver services and help manage community life in an ever changing and increasingly demanding world where there was greater transparency and an expectation to achieve accountability at the highest level. As difficult as those times were, Gus understood that vision and was a vital member of the Local Government Transitional Committee for the new MacDonnell Shire and Cultural Advisor to that shire until August 2008. He was a community leader in a time when the success of local community government councils depended so much on the ethics, morality, skill and perseverance of key leadership figures. He navigated that very tricky role and all the challenges thrown to him in those days of small and very under-resourced local government. He managed to do what very few could: combine dual roles of council president and council administrator. In addition to his work on that council, he found time to be the long-standing president and board member of the Ngurratjuta Aboriginal Corporation; Chair of the Western Arrernte Aboriginal Health Corporation; Executive Director of Ntaria community-owned supermarket, and delegate to the Central Land Council. It is a mark of the man that Gus Williams did his best to fulfil a leadership role for his community with integrity, diligence and humility. This, no doubt, was born of his incredible faith and his early days growing up with the values of the Lutheran Church. These qualities, and his ever present contribution to community wellbeing in Central Australia, led to recognition and the award of the Order of Australia in 1983 for his community service, well deserved by any measure. As evidenced through his pioneering in the music industry, Gus also had an entrepreneurial streak in his being, and was always looking for ways to develop economic opportunities. Gus 6496

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