• John 'Jak' Ah Kit has died aged 69. (Social Media)Source: Social Media
Tributes continue to flow as the country remembers Jawoyn leader John Ah Kit, who died on Sunday aged 69.
Rachael Hocking

13 Jul 2020 - 5:19 PM  UPDATED 13 Jul 2020 - 5:19 PM

The former Northern Land Council (NLC) director - who was known affectionately to many as Jak - was a trailblazer for First Nations people across the Northern Territory.

He was the first Aboriginal Cabinet Minister in the NT, serving for Labor in the seat of Arnhem for ten years from 1995-2005, and helmed the NLC from 1984 to 1990 before becoming executive director of the Jawoyn Association for four years. 

Federal Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy succeeded Mr Ah Kit in the NT Legislative Assembly when he retired from politics in 2005. Reflecting on his life, she told NITV News that he had an ability to unite people despite their differences. 

"Whether it was in Clan meetings, in terms of Traditional Owner groups, or land councils, or whether it was in the caucus of the Labor Party, or the cabinet, or even the Labor conference, Jak just had this knack for always reminding others to find a way that still brings us all together," she said. 

"I will forever be grateful for his mentorship, his friendship. You know, and he'd growl you along the way and tell ya what you should be doing when you weren't doing it, and I think that's really the essence of the man and that's the legacy that he leaves behind: that inspiration to get up and have a go."

Mr Ah Kit's daughter Ngaree Ah Kit followed in her father's footsteps, currently sitting as the Member for Karama in the NT Parliament.

In a family statement on Sunday evening she said details about her father's memorial will be finalised after reflecting on his life and achievements. 

"His achievements were many and we'll hear stories of these in the coming days and weeks," the statement reads.

"But what we should all remember is that my Dad had a wonderful sense of humour."

The Arnhem Land-based Yothu Yindi Foundation released a statement calling Mr Ah Kit a "passionate advocate for Indigenous rights throughout his life". 

"He will be remembered as a larger-than-life character who never ceased working to improve the lives of Indigenous people in the NT, even long after he had retired politics," the statement reads. 

Meanwhile Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, called Mr Ah Kit one of the NT's "greatest champions".

Senator McCarthy said Mr Ah Kit should be remembered for his passion for his people and standing up for what was right.

"John Ah Kit was such an inspiring leader who had a profound impact on hundreds, if not thousands of people right across the Northern Territory, and Australia," she said. 

"His legacy that he leaves for those of us who are coming behind is to have the courage to try and take a stand, to make a difference, and to make sure you do it for all people."