The Northern Land Council is saddened by the death of former chairman, Mr Wunungmurra

Media Release

Friday, 7 August, 2015

The Northern Land Council is deeply saddened by news of the death of its immediate past chairman, Mr Wunungmurra, who passed away this afternoon at Gove Hospital.

Mr Wunungmurra retired as NLC chairman in late 2013, having served two three-year terms.

His successor, Mr Samuel Bush-Blanasi, said Mr Wunungmurra was an Aboriginal leader of high degree, whose wise counsel was always respected.

“Only last weekend, Mr Wunungmurra was honoured at the Garma Festival as a Yolngu Hero,” Mr Bush-Blanasi said. “The citation of that award described him as one of the greatest of modern Yolngu leaders and a trusted confidant of many.

“With the passing of Mr Wunungmurra, the whole Northern Territory community has lost a leader of great distinction. He was a kind and beautiful man, and on behalf of the Northern Land Council I extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.

“Mr Wunungmurra was a signatory to the 1963 Yirrkala Bark Petitions, and he never ceased to be a forceful advocate for Aboriginal rights.”

“In his last report as NLC chairman, Mr Wunungmurra wrote that land and culture underpinned the existence and survival of Aboriginal people, and he said the NT Aboriginal Land Rights Act had to be protected and preserved.

“And his long-term hope and vision expressed in that report was that the hard-won recognition of Aboriginal people and their land rights would be embedded in the Australian Constitution. Sadly, he has died without that hope and vision having been realised.”


Last weekend Mr Wunungmura was celebrated as the 2015 Yolngu Hero at the annual Garma Festival at Gulkula, north-east Arnhem Land.

This is the citation for the award as read by Mr Jack Thompson.

Mr. Wununggmurra

A signatory to the 1963 Yirrkala Bark Petition Mr Wununggmurra is one of the greatest of modern Yolngu leaders.

As well as displaying his own style as an advocate Mr Wunungmurra has been a trusted confidant of many Yolngu and non-Yolngu leaders who have for many years turned to him for guidance, advice and wise counsel. Born of the Dhalwangu clan he is a ceremonial leader of high degree and a man of fierce loyalty and vision for his people.

As a young man Mr Wunungmurra attended Methodist Bible College in Brisbane and became an educator and a teacher at Yirrkala. He was a bridge between two worlds for young Yolngu people and provided a pathway for many who have gone on to play their role in the life of the nation.

With an independent mind and a willingness to listen Mr Wunungmurra has served with distinction as the Chairman of Layhnapuy Homelands, the Yambirrpa School Council and from 2007 to 2013 the Northern Land Council.

His homeland is Gurrumurru and his special totem is wurran, the diving cormorant.

He is the 2015 Garma Yolngu Hero.

– Signatory of the Yirrkala Bark Petition

– Gove Land Rights Case

– Yirrkala Village Council

– Laynhapuy Homelands

– Blue Mud Bay Sea Rights Claim

– NLC Chair 6 years. Member 20 years


Mr Wunungmurra’s family has consented to the use of his name and image.