Vale Sol Bellear
This article is sponsored by Uniting, the Board of the NSW and ACT Synod of the Uniting Church responsible for the work of community services, chaplaincy and social justice advocacy.
Sol Bellear passed away on November 29, 2017, aged 66, and was farewelled with a state funeral in Redfern on December 9. The life of the Aboriginal rights activist was celebrated at Redfern Park, the spiritual home of his beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs and the site at which he led then-Prime Minister Paul Keating on stage to deliver the emotional Redfern speech in 1992.
Bellear, a Bundjalung man from Mullumbimby, was chair of the Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern, the founding chair of the Aboriginal Legal Service, a member of an Aboriginal delegation to the UN General Assembly and was awarded an Order of Australia in 1999 for his services to the Aboriginal community. He was a delegate at the historic constitutional convention at Uluru in 2017.
NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chair Roy Ah-See hailed Bellear as one of the land rights network’s “most respected and revered legends”. “Sol was courageous, determined, respected, trusted and generous with a great sense of humour,” Mr Ah-See said. “He was a fighter, a savvy political operator, skilled diplomat, mentor, a dear friend and family man.
Despite playing such a crucial role in the history of Aboriginal Land Rights and the rights movement, Sol remained humble – always focused on the unfinished business of self- determination and improving the lives of Aboriginal people.”
A skilled footballer, Bellear was graded by the Rabbitohs in the late 1970s, also representing the Redfern All Blacks at the first NSW Koori Knockout in 1971.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg described Bellear as a “big figure in the game” who would be missed. “Sol never lost that passion for the game and was a key figure in the success of the Koori knockout tournament,” Mr Greenberg said. “He was also a renowned mentor of young Indigenous players, many of who went on to play grade and for the Indigenous All Stars.”
Among the dignitaries to attend the service were NSW Governor David Hurley, Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek and Senator Pat Dodson. Speakers included Paul Coe, who said, “He carried a great personal weight on his shoulders because he was a strong man” adding that “there would be no land rights movement in NSW if there was no Solly Bellear … Solly had an outlook in life: you need more than anger to change the world.”
Singer Emma Donovan opened the funeral with the touchstone “Land Rights Song”, whose memorable lines “they keep on saying everything’s fine, still they can’t see us cry all the time” seemed particularly apt.
Sol Bellear is survived by his partner Naomi and children Joseph and Tamara.
Acknowledgement: NITV online
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