Queensland and Australia have lost a fearless, tireless fighter for the rights of indigenous Australians.
Sam Watson Snr was a proud member of the Munnenjarl and Biri Gubba Juru tribal nations, with blood ties to the Yuggera, Kalkadoon and Noonuccal peoples.
A lifelong activist, community leader, author, academic and filmmaker, Sam was a passionate advocate for his people.
Across more than half a century, he made an indelible contribution to the advancement of the rights of Indigenous Australians.
In the 1960s, Mr Watson campaigned against the White Australia Policy.
He was involved in both the 1967 referendum campaign and the Gurindji land rights claim in the Northern Territory.
He served at the Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra from 1972, the year it was founded.
Through the 1970s, Mr Watson worked with elders to establish community organisations and peak bodies in health, housing, education, employment and legal aid.”
In the 1980’s Sam fought on the front line against the brutality of the Bjelke-Petersen Government.
Through his work with the Brisbane Aboriginal Legal Service in the 1990s, Mr Watson played a vital role in implementing the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
In 2009, Mr Watson was appointed Deputy Director at the University of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit where he taught courses in Black Australian literature.
As an author and screenwriter, Mr Watson was named National Indigenous Writer of the Year in 1991 for his novel The Kadaitcha Sung.
He wrote and co-produced the 1994 film Black Man Down that was screened to global audiences as part of the Sand to Celluloid collection of Indigenous short films.
Sam famously tore down place names that were offensive to indigenous Australians, but also fought to preserve those that remind Queensland of the racial prejudice in our past – like Boundary Street in West End.
Mr Watson is survived by his wife Cathy and his children Nicole Watson and Sam Wagan Watson.
Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
The Honourable Jackie Trad