Mr M Yunupingu was “an extraordinarily beautiful, generous person” whose passing was a loss to the Aboriginal and wider Australian communities
The chair of NACCHO Justin Mohamed has joined other Aboriginal and Non Aboriginal leaders paying to tribute to former Yothu Yindi frontman Mr M Yunupingu who passed away at the age of 56 and stated that it highlighted how common kidney disease and early deaths are in Aboriginal communities.
The former lead singer of indigenous band Yothu Yindi has died at his home in the Northern Territory.
Mr. M Yunupingu died aged 56 after a long battle with renal disease.
The singer, 56, was named Australian of the Year in 1992 for his role in building bridges of understanding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people
His older brother, Galarrwuy, also won the award in 1978.
Yothu Yindi was perhaps best known for the hit song Treaty, written in response to the Hawke government breaking a treaty with indigenous people.
Ms Burney NSW politician said Yunupingu’s death was a stark reminder Aboriginal people had high levels of kidney disease and lower life expectancy.
“I think that’s an important point to be made in this discussion and what will be said today about Mandawuy.
“We’ll all mourn his death but the truth is there’ll be a number of Aboriginal people that will die today across the country from renal disease.”
Ms Burney said death was all too prevalent in Aboriginal communities and families.
“It’s just there all the time and it’s from diseases and violence, all the things that beset first world people in this country with third world health outcomes.”
Last December, Mr M Yunupingu was taken to hospital after collapsing at home.
He had been fighting end-stage renal disease and had been undergoing dialysis.
A relative of Yunupingu, who did not wish to be identified, confirmed his death on Sunday night at his home, near Nhulunbuy.
Yunupingu was a Yolngu man and a well-known identity in Arnhem Land.
He became the lead singer in Yothu Yindi, which was formed in 1986, a group which created a blend of rock and traditional Aboriginal music.
It became so popular Yunupingu had to give up his teaching job.
Yunupingu was the first Aboriginal person from Arnhem Land to gain a university degree, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in education from Deakin University in 1988.
In 1989 he became assistant principal of the Yirrkala Community School. In 1990 he took over as principal of that school, becoming the first Aboriginal principal in Australia. He held this position until late 1991, leaving to pursue his career with Yothu Yindi.
He always said he believed that life should be balanced and in harmony and that his mother taught him important Aboriginal ideas about how to live with people and with nature.
His name, Yunupingu, means rock – rock that stands against time.
Minister for School Education and former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett tweeted: “Can’t believe he’s gone, my dear friend. A path breaker and leader. A shining light for his people. Rest in peace Mr Yunupingu.”
Arts Minister, Tony Burke, said that Australia had lost one of its most important cultural figures.
“Tribal Voice has always been one of my favourite Australian albums,” Mr Burke said.
“Mr M Yunupingu didn’t only create a fusion of musical styles and a celebration of Australian culture, he reached people in a way that only music can.
“The passing of Mr M Yunupingu is a sad day for Australian music and indigenous culture.”
Indigenous leader Warren Mundine said Yunupingu’s death was a tragedy and his thoughts went out to his family and the Yolngu people in north-east Arnhem Land.
‘‘He was an Australian of the Year, a national figure, a leader beyond the music stage,’’ Mr Mundine said.
‘‘He was an amazing man, like his brother, who came from an amazing family. Who would think that people in such isolated, small communities would have such an influence on the national and global stage? They’ve had a tremendous, positive influence beyond their own community.
‘‘It’s a very sad day and our heart goes out to the family.’’
Mr Mundine said Yunupingu’s death at such a young age also highlighted the health issues being experienced by indigenous Australians.
‘‘It is a wake-up call to us all that a bloke of his standing can die at such a tragic young age. It’s typical that it’s happening in indigenous communities,’’ he said.
‘‘I had heart surgery last year. This is a wake-up call to us really to look after our health and really look at our lifestyle. Our people die too young.’’