In late July, the Land Rights network lost a true Land Rights Legend, Kevin Cook, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council’s first elected Chairperson.
Kevin, also fondly known as “Cookie”, was a giant in the Land Rights movement. He was a fighter in the struggle for Land Rights and a leader for the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) as its first elected Chairperson.
He was born and raised at Cringila, near Wollongong and his family is from the Wandandian people, who had close ties with the Yuin and Dharawal language groups.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Kevin ensured the Land Rights network found its voice through the Black Defence Group in 1977 as well as broader advocacy movements aimed at building alliances with trade unions, churches and other Aboriginal activists.
The Black Defence Group was the precursor to the establishment of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council in the lead-up to the passage of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1983.
As Chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Kevin led from the front by pressing the State Government to deliver on its commitment to right the wrongs of dispossession of Aboriginal land.
He also understood the need to protect Land Rights and to turn the early gains into a long-term future through education, serving as the first Aboriginal General-Secretary of Tranby Aboriginal College in 1981.
Kevin was also active in the trade union movement with the Builders Labourers Federation which was heavily involved in Land Rights, and he raised awareness and solutions to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody. He was also a published author on the history of Land Rights.
Since 2009, senior Aboriginal leaders have delivered an annual lecture named in his honour at Yabun in Sydney, ensuring Kevin’s pioneering work is acknowledged and celebrated.
Kevin was a humble man but his memory and achievements are lasting and inspiring to future generations who have the responsibility of continuing his legacy in the Land Rights movement.
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