The life of Komeroi Elder Uncle Lyall Munro Senior is being remembered after his passing in May - with his life’s achievements honoured with a NSW State Funeral service in Moree last Saturday.
With more than 220 direct descendants, Lyall Senior’s legacy was as much about love and family as his enormous contribution to the wider Aboriginal community and causes. He is survived by his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren, the Munro family remains a pillar of the Moree community and the land rights movement.
Lyall senior spent his life tirelessly fighting for justice, self-determination, and land rights for Aboriginal people, not just in his hometown of Moree, but in NSW, nationally and at times internationally.
In 1965, Lyall senior was right there when Charles Perkins and the Freedom Rides drove into Moree to raise awareness to urban Australians about racial segregation in rural towns, challenging the ban on Aboriginal children using the Moree Swimming Baths.
He was elected to the NSW Aboriginal Advisory Council in 1969, which directly advised the NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs following the abolishment of the NSW Aboriginal Welfare Board. He was also a member of the NSW Aboriginal Lands Trust and National Aboriginal Consultative Committee (NACC), an organisation that was reconstituted to the National Aboriginal Conference - and was involved in the establishment of the Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS) in Redfern in the 1970s and Australian Legal Aid Commission which was modelled on the ALS structure.
As an executive member of the NAC, Lyall Senior was tasked with Treaty negotiations with Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s government. He was instrumental in Australia hosting the Third General Assembly of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in Canberra in 1981.
During the Eighties, he also became an executive member of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, and with the board of the National Aboriginal Conference (NAC) twice met with Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and the federal cabinet.
Uncle Lyall Senior’s contribution to his local community, as well as the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cause, was extraordinary and enormous.
He served as director of the Moree District Hospital for 10 years and helping establish prominent local organisations such as the Pius X Aboriginal Corporation, Aboriginal Homecare and the Aboriginal Employment Strategy to name a few. As a silent achiever Uncle Lyall Senior was acknowledged with several accolades throughout his lifetime, including the NSW Law and Justice Foundation’s Aboriginal Justice Award in 2013.
Lyall Senior also made important contributions to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
As a direct descendant of the victims and survivors of the Myall Creek Massacre in 1838 near Bingara, NSW he worked tirelessly in retired life to have both the Myall Creek Massacre and Memorial site, created in 2000, listed on the NSW State Heritage Register and National Heritage List. He was a passionate advocate of truth telling as part of our national identity.
The Aboriginal Legal Service acknowledged Uncle Lyall senior’s contribution as a founding member of the ALS, saying he "will be remembered as a staunch, loyal, respected Elder and leader."
Uncle Lyall Senior’s legacy will also leave a lasting mark on the land rights movement. The NSW Aboriginal Land Council remembered him as the man who lead a land rights march in Sydney in the 1980s.
“You can’t miss Uncle Lyall, proudly leading the mob, marching out front in his plaid trousers,” a NSWALC spokesperson said.
NSWALC chair Anne Dennis said Uncle Lyall Senior’s dedication to land rights will be one of his greatest legacies.
“Uncle Lyall Munro Senior was deeply involved with Land Rights for decades and his commitment to his people remained constant, focused and dedicated for his entire life,” she said.
“I have had the honour and pleasure of knowing Uncle Lyall Munro Senior over the past 30 years.
“His perseverance in fighting for justice has benefitted Aboriginal people not only in his local community, but across NSW.
“He was a true black leader.”