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Champion of Aboriginal land rights mourned


Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello has joined with Aboriginal people across NSW to mourn the passing of Francis John (Frank) Walker QC, who was the first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in NSW.

"As Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Hon Frank Walker was responsible for NSW being the first state, following the Northern Territory, to enact Aboriginal land rights legislation," Mr Dominello said.

"The NSW legislation, the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983, recognised the obligation on the State Government to financially compensate Aboriginal people in NSW for the loss of their land.

"This Act established a network of land councils across the State and provided a framework for land compensation in acknowledgement of the dispossession of Aboriginal people of their lands by successive governments.

"Courtesy of this Act, NSW is the only state with a democratically elected network of Aboriginal Land Councils that provide a representative voice for Aboriginal people.

"Through the land claims process provided by the Land Rights Act Aboriginal Land Councils in NSW control more than 82,000 hectares of land, and an estimated unimproved capital value of more than $2 billion," Mr Dominello said.

In 1990, Frank Walker became a Commonwealth Minister under Paul Keating, helping implement changes flowing from the Mabo land rights case. Following the Mabo judgement, the Australian Government passed the Native Title Act 1993, which established a legal framework for native title claims throughout Australia.

As Attorney-General in the government of Neville Wran, the Hon Frank Walker's parliamentary work was notable for a reform agenda that included the repeal of the draconian Summary Offences Act, legislation which had a significant negative impact on Aboriginal people in NSW.

"Frank Walker's commitment and legacy to the people of NSW has recognised with the NSW Government's decision to hold a State Funeral," Mr Dominello said.

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