Tauto Sansbury, a Narungga elder, has worked to close the gap in inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians for more than 30 years.
10 Jul 2015 - 10:05 PM  UPDATED 7 Jun 2021 - 3:19 PM

Tauto fought to improve the conditions of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system as state chairperson of the South Australian Aboriginal Justice Advocacy Committee and chairperson of the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee for more than 10 years.

These committees resulted from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody where Tauto worked closely with Elliott Johnstone, QC and the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Justice Officer.

He was recognised in 2003 when he was awarded an Australian Centenary medal "In recognition of work as director of the Aboriginal Justice Advocacy Committee and the National Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee".

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Tauto’s AJAC role saw him attend 18 deaths in custody with compassion and ensure that he represented the best interests of the families and the deceased. 

Attending to deaths and autopsies was extremely difficult, yet he never shied from his duties. Tauto is particularly concerned about the unacceptable levels and impact that suicide is having on Aboriginal communities.

"Next year I'll turn 65. I’ve outlived my dad, who died at 49, and my oldest brother, who also died at 49. I've outlived three other siblings too, and a niece and two nephews,” he said.

"Our family is no different to so many others across Aboriginal Australia. Heartbreak, hard lives and ill health are taking too many of our people too young. We can so easily be lost to the trauma. And yet somehow, still I dare to hope for a better future for our people."

Tauto continues to be a champion for his people, organising many rallies and community forums to unite and give them a voice to fight the injustices they face.

Recently he organised a rally at Parliament House, Adelaide to protest the proposed cuts to Aboriginal funding announced in the May 2014 Federal Budget. He also organised three community forums bringing in key Aboriginal speakers to highlight the consequences of the budget cuts and the impacts on Aboriginal people.

Overcoming a lack of education past Grade 6 and considerable disadvantage as a child, youth and young man, he has provided invaluable services and is now self-employed through his consultancy Garridja.

He is focused on cultural understanding and youth programs, and is setting up an Aboriginal employment program that delivers jobs, starting on his country, Narungga land on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula.

He continues persisting for Australia’s First Peoples to be recognised in the Constitution in the belief that a legacy of lies about the country’s history has resulted in poverty, chronic illness and the despair that leads so many of our young people to suicide.

"A better future begins with the acknowledgement of a simple truth in Constitutional recognition," he says.

He has a series of accolades to his name including the 1996 NAIDOC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Person for Australia and South Australia Australian Centenary Medal, and most recently Male Elder of the Year at the South Australian NAIDOC Awards.