AURUKUN Mayor Neville Pootchemunka was a dedicated leader who will be sorely missed, Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said today.
Mr Entsch first met Mr Pootchemunka in 2004 and said he always found him to be very, very committed to his community.
“He was never afraid to embrace controversial initiatives that he believed were in the best interests of his community,” Mr Entsch said.
“He was absolutely committed to Welfare Reform – he wanted to see kids attending school and always had the dream of young Wik people being world travellers, being able to pick up the Blackberry and speak to their elders on country.
“He had a great sense of pride and saw Welfare Reform as a means of achieving that through education and employment, creating opportunities to open up the world to young Wik people.”
Mr Entsch said Neville was also passionate about his support of traditional discipline.
“He always lamented that many aspects of the mainstream legal system were not strong enough to deter young perpetrators and as such, encouraged these young people to offend and to wear their criminal achievements as a badge of honour,” he said.
“Neville believed that under traditional law, these troubled young people could be banished from the community onto traditional homelands for a period of time, and the scorn and disgust of the community was more effective than anything that could be meted out to them in the mainstream system.”
Mr Entsch said he was deeply saddened by the loss of such a leader at the relatively young age of 50.
“It seems to be the case in many of our indigenous communities that those who are achieving the most seem to leave us too soon,” he said. “That was the calibre of the man. But there is no doubt that he is leaving us with a lasting legacy and he will not be forgotten.”