03 September 2020

SENATE ADJOURNMENT - Ah Kit, Mr John Leonard (JAK), Tipungwuti, Mr Robert - Thursday, 3 September 2020

Senator McCARTHY (Northern Territory—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (17:50): I rise to speak on the passing of two Aboriginal leaders in the last few months whose funerals I attended. Labor Party stalwart Mr John Ah Kit, known to most as 'JAK', was the first Aboriginal cabinet minister in the Northern Territory, serving in the seat of Arnhem for 10 years, from 1995 the 2005. Prior to that, he served as director of the Northern Land Council from 1984 to 1990 and as executive director of the Jawoyn Association in Katherine, where he was much respected. I succeeded Mr Ah Kit in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly when he retired from politics in 2005. I will forever be grateful for his mentorship and friendship.

Mr Ah Kit leaves a legacy for the next generation of leaders. He was cheeky, he was stubborn, had a hard head and yet was so determined to see a better Northern Territory for all people. These traits clearly pushed him in every area of his life to encourage all of us who knew him to do better. He bled true blue for his beloved Darwin Buffalos. I pay my respects to his wife, Gail, and children—Ngaree, Darren, Jonathan—and their families. I commend Ngaree for her successful re-election as the member for Karama during what was an incredibly difficult personal time for her. Mr Ah Kit was remembered in a state funeral at TIO Stadium in Marrara on 22 July.

I also wish to pay my respects to the family of Mr Robert Tipungwuti, whose funeral took place at St Mary's Cathedral in Darwin on 10 July. Mr Tipungwuti served as chairman of the Tiwi Land Council from 2006 to 2012. He was passionate about maintaining Tiwi language and about speaking Tiwi at home. I recall Mr Tipungwuti on one of the Indigenous advisory councils when I was Indigenous Affairs Minister in the Northern Territory and he was always reminding me and others of the importance of homelands and outstations. He was enormously passionate about the need for First Nations people to have the opportunities to grow their business, their ventures on their own lands and that is something that has always stayed with me. He was committed to assisting the Tiwi people in the development of both Melville and Bathurst islands. My deepest condolences to his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.