First Nations people across Australia are mourning the loss of internationally renowned Yolngu musician Dr G. Yunupingu, who died on Tuesday. It comes within the same week as the loss of two other strong voices, Yankunytjatjara elder Yami Lester and Kaurna elder Stephen Gadlabarti Goldsmith.
Dr Yunupingu was a member of two iconic Top End bands, Yothu Yindi and Saltwater Band, before he became known in parts around the world with the release of his self-titled album in 2008. The album went triple platinum and he was later dubbed "Australia's Most Important Voice" by Rolling Stone magazine.
He was the highest-selling Australian Indigenous artist in history.
His music label Skinnyfish Music said in an emailed statement on Tuesday: "Today we mourn the loss of a great Australian, Dr G. Yunupingu who sadly passed away yesterday in Royal Darwin Hospital at age 46 after a long battle with illness."
The ABC has reported there had been people concerned he had not been accessing renal treatment for liver and kidney disease.
Skinnyfish Music went on to pay tribute to the Dr Yunupingu, describing him as "one of the most important figures in Australian music history".
"Blind from birth and emerging from the remote Galiwin’ku community on Elcho Island off the coast of Arnhem Land to sell over half a million copies of his albums across the world, singing in his native Yolngu language,” the statement said.
“Dr G Yunupingu also gave back to his community as the driving force behind the G Yunupingu Foundation, creating opportunities for young people across the Northern Territory.
“His legacy as a musician and community leader will continue as his life’s work continues its positive impact on Elcho Island, the Northern Territory, Australia and the world."
First Nations people are also mourning the loss of prominent Kuarna leader Stephen Gadlabarti Goldsmith, who passed away on Monday.
Mr Goldsmith was heavily involved in the revitalisation of the language Kuarna, whose speakers took in the Adelaide Hills and plains in South Australia.
His passing caused heartbreak, particularly in South Australia, where he was known as a legend within community.
The Adelaide Crows football club also paid tribute:
The death of another South Australian legend, Yankunytjatjara elder Yami Lester, who spent his life campaigning for justice after he was left blind by British nuclear tests on his traditional lands in the 1950s, has also resulted in tributes.
Mr Lester died in Alice Springs last Friday, aged 75.
He left behind a strong legacy. Not only did he help spark the Royal Commission into British nuclear tests in Australia in the 1980s, he was also instrumental in the historic handback of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park to traditional owners in 1985.
In a statement to NITV, Mr Lester's family said his influence would live on.
“His warmth, kindness, generosity and resolve inspired so many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and as Tjamu (grandfather) and Katja (great grandfather), he will be forever remembered by his loved ones, his extended family, community and by so many," the statement read.
“Yami leaves an incredible legacy of better global understanding of the devastation of nuclear bombs and for the ongoing battle for recognition of the consequence of them on the rights and interests of Anangu.”
Amy McQuire is an Indigenous Affairs Reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Queensland, Australia.
Contact Amy McQuire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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