Tireless worker for Bundjalung
UNCLE Eric Walker was the%essence of an elder. He was wise, highly-respected, passionate about his country and an advocate for Aboriginal land rights. The 95-year-old died on September 28 and, according to those who knew him best, his awe-inspiring persona will be missed by all. He was one of the last speakers of the Bundjalung language and worked tirelessly to promote the language and culture of the Bundjalung people. Director of the College of Indigenous Australian People at SCU, Professor Judy Atkinson, said Uncle Eric Walker would often pop into her class unannounced to share his wisdom with her students. "Uncle Eric believed that whatever people were learning, they should use it to the absolute advantage of their own community," she said. Prof Atkinson said Uncle Eric encouraged people to find their roots and always speak the truth. He received an honorary fellowship from Southern Cross University in 1996 in recognition of his outstanding commitment to the Aboriginal community. In 1998 he and his wife Una were the NAIDOC Elders of the Year.
Uncle Eric commanded respect and Prof Atkinson said that he was held in as high esteem as the university chancellor at SCU. He also had a sharp wit and his speeches always captured the audience's attention. Former media advisor with ATSIC, Phillipa McDermott, worked with Uncle Eric for years and said he was a great storyteller and a really positive role model. "He was awe-inspiring, but really gentle and funny too. He was like a gentle giant," she said. Uncle Eric had a deep spiritual connection to the land. During a speech at the Wollumbin Festival, Uncle Eric said Wollumbin (Mount Warning) was 'like a cathedral or a church'.
The NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs director-general, Jody Broun, said Aboriginal people across Northern NSW would mourn the loss of such a highly-esteemed elder. His funeral will be next Friday at Tabulam.