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Eulogy for Uncle Lester Bostock

By December 1, 2017 No Comments

Eulogy given at the funeral service of Uncle Lester Bostock

By Damian Griffis

On behalf of myself and all of us at the First Peoples Disability Network we offer our deepest condolences to Aunty Phemie, to George, to Cheryl and Tracey, to Marley and Health, to Craig and Scott, Blake and to the whole Bostock clan.  I also want to offer my deepest condolences to Aunty Maureen in particular, your devotion to this great man has been an extraordinary thing to witness.  Your story together is the greatest love story.

It is a great privilege to be given this opportunity to reflect on the life of this great man.  This great man is my hero.  This great man is the noblest of men.  I often felt in awe of this great man, his patience, his quiet determination, his profound sense of purpose.

I have been honoured and humbled to know this great man for the best part of the last 20 years of his life.  I have had the great privilege of travelling widely with him, to places as far afield as New York, South Korea and Samoa.  But it’s our road trips through his country, Bundjalung country that stay with me the most, when he showed me around country from Coraki to Baryulgil to Grafton to the Tweed.  I felt like I was in the presence of an extraordinary elder and felt humbled that he would take me on that journey with him.

But before I add my own reflections on this great man’s life the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten has asked me to say a few words on his behalf.

Bill Says:

Today we mourn a man who changed his country for the better.

Uncle found a unique way to tell the Australian story and he owns a special place in it.

For his exceptional contribution to Aboriginal film-making, media and the disability movement, Uncle was honoured and recognised throughout his life, particularly as NAIDOC Elder of the Year in 2010 and when he received an honorary doctorate from the Australian Film Television and Radio School last year.

Uncle’s decades of advocacy for Aboriginal people with disability faced his fellow Australians up to their responsibilities and his influence and inspiration will live on in the next generation of leaders he inspired.

Chloe and I offer Lester’s friends, family and all those whose lives he touched, our heartfelt condolences.  May he rest in peace.

As Bill Shorten says, this man’s passing is a sad moment in time.  This is a man who has been involved in some of the pivotal moments in recent Australian history.

This great man is a nation builder, this great man is a healing man.  This great man is a reconciliation man.  This man is a story teller.  This is the humblest of men.

They should build monuments to men like this great man.  This man lived his life knowing his place in it.  He knew he was part of a long line of elders and leaders and he knew his role was to educate and mentor future leaders.  He has done that and more.

This man’s song lines will sing and sing and sing.

I never saw him angry yet he had much to be angry about.  I can remember him telling me stories of the outrageous discrimination he experienced particularly back in the 60s.  When he told me those stories it made me angry, how could any other man seek to discriminate against this great man.  This most humble and generous of men.  But he never sat in anger, he had moved through his anger to a place of deep harmony.  He was at peace with himself and the world around him.  In my time with him and throughout our travels I never heard him once get angry or frustrated about his disability.  He lived with grace, despite the physical pain that his disability often caused him, I never heard him ever speak with regret about his disability.

He has achieved so many things and touched so many lives he leaves an extraordinary legacy.  Many people gathered here today have benefitted from his legacy.  He had a deep affection for young people, he was a mentor to many.  I know that this great man helped to shape me.  He was a grandfather to me.  He will forever be a quite whisper at my shoulder.

How is it possible that one man can achieve so much in one life?  Over this past week I’ve been trying to answer this question.  I think its because of courage.  This great man had almost impossible courage.  He was profoundly disabled for 60 years of his life, yet he stood amongst the tallest of men.  He was subjected to racism throughout his life in particular during his formative years, yet he was the first to build a bridge to the other side.  He has many friends from the non-Indigenous community.  This is a man that deserves the deepest of respect and the greatest of accolades.  Yet he would most likely shun that in favour of knowing that there are others rising in his place.  This is surely the mark of a great man.

The passing of this great man marks the end of an era in many ways, there are fewer and fewer of the pioneering leaders still with us today.  This man has been there for those nation shaping moments.  He was a leading campaigner during the 67 Referendum.  He was advocating for the rights of Aboriginal people with disabilities as far back as 1991.  And of course as we know and as we have already heard he was a pioneer of Aboriginal media.  For his extraordinary contribution to public life he was awarded an Order of Australia Medal.

This great man has lived a full life.  This man’s legacy demands of all of us that we seek to build a better local community, a better Australia.  He saw progress in his life there is no doubt, but I know he was restless to see more.

So here lies a great Marrickville man, here lies a truly great Australian.  Here lies a proud and strong and noble and wise Bundjalung warrior.

Rest in Peace