NLC Chair Dr Bush-Blanasi. Image used with permission from the Bush-Blanasi families.

The Northern Land Council has closed its doors while it mourns the loss of its fearless and long-standing leader.

Dr. Bush-Blanasi was just 61 years old when he passed away at Royal Darwin Hospital on Sunday surrounded by members of his extended family.

The Yolŋu and Mayili man was born and raised in the community of Wugularr (Beswick), in the Katherine region in the Northern Territory.

Having served on the NLC board for nine terms, including four as Chair, he represented 51,000 people, making him a pivotal figure in the territory’s largest land council.

He has been remembered as a staunch advocate for Indigenous rights and empowerment, without seeking personal recognition.

In a statement from the NLC, Dr Bush-Blanasi was hailed for his bold and uncompromising leadership.

“Never deferential; he spoke truth to power. His political nous was second to none; equally as influential when talking with countrymen or politicians. He engaged naturally to deliver tough messages to those who needed to hear the,” the statement read.

“His contribution to the fight for sea rights enhanced the recognition of traditional ownership of Aboriginal people across the NT coastline. This was a seminal marker in the rights of Aboriginal peoples. 

“Most of all Dr Bush-Blanasi was a family man. His children and grandchildren were never far from his thoughts. He loved to be surrounded by his extended family and often shared stories of their achievements and successes.”

He was an elected ATSIC representative and a long-serving board member of the North Australian Indigenous Land & Sea Management Alliance, Imparja and Northern Building Consultants. 

He was a founding member of the Association of Northern, Kimberley and Arnhem Aboriginal Artists, Aboriginal Sea Company, Aboriginal Housing Northern Territory, Top End Aboriginal Bush Broadcasting Association and the Northern Territory Aboriginal Investment Corporation. 

In 2023, Dr Bush-Blanasi was awarded an honorary doctorate by Charles Darwin University and was the Northern Territory Australian of the Year.

Preparations for his funeral are currently underway. Dr Bush-Blanasi is survived by his children and grandchildren.