• Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser has died, at the age of 84, in the early hours of Friday, March 20, 2015 after a short illness.
Malcolm Fraser, Australia’s 22nd Prime Minister and one of the Liberal Party’s most iconic figures, is being remembered as a ‘towering figure’ and ‘patriot’ after his death was announced on Friday morning, writes Malarndirri McCarthy and Andrea Booth.
Malarndirri McCarthy, Andrea Booth

20 Mar 2015 - 11:00 AM  UPDATED 24 Jun 2015 - 5:28 PM

Although Mr Fraser won three federal elections and was the nation’s leader from 1975 to 1983, the manner of his elevation to the Prime Ministership – through explosive constitutional circumstances after the 1975 dismissal of Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister – had made him an eternally controversial figure in Australian politics.

During his eight years as Prime Minister, Mr Fraser approved the mining and export of uranium from the Kakadu region and completed the passage of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, which was introduced under Prime Minister Whitlam.

But it was not until his post-political life that Mr Fraser spoke out most strongly on Indigenous issues, even chastising his former Liberal colleagues for their policies and decisions.

Most notably he expressed concerns about the NT government’s Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory policy of 2012, which was an extension to the National Emergency Response legislative package introduced by the John Howard Government in 2007 (better known as the NT Intervention).

The Territory’s extended legislation proposed to cease building new housing in homelands, instead pushing investment in territory townships.

Fraser criticised the policy in an open letter dated 27 June 2011, saying that the government did not provide any concrete measures to back its plans.

“It does mention the numbers of houses constructed or being constructed, but it does not say where. It gives no measure of school attendance … It gives no measure of progress in health and healthcare. It gives no measure of a reduction in alleged child abuse or in drunkenness,” he wrote.

“How can the government embark on consultations for the years ahead when it is not prepared to lay out the facts of what has happened over the last four years.”

Furthermore, Mr Fraser said the government had failed to adequately consult Aboriginal people who would be affected by the policy.

“A 28 page document written only in English is incapable of being fully understood and absorbed by Aboriginal communities in the time that the government has allegedly made available.”

Mr Fraser recognised that more engagement with communities needed to occur to improve the quality of life of the First Peoples of Australia.

“Nobody has had the patience really to sit down on their ground and talk with community after community,” Mr Fraser told The Conversation four years ago. “This is the only way it can be done. Different communities need ownership of the programs that are put in place to help them.”