• WA footy legend Irwin Lewis has passed away at the age of 80 years old. (WAFL Collection)Source: WAFL Collection
Irwin Lewis was the first Aboriginal person to attend the University of Western Australia, a WA footy legend, and father to former two-time Eagles' premiership player Chris Lewis.
Rangi Hirini

31 Jan 2020 - 10:25 AM  UPDATED 31 Jan 2020 - 10:29 AM

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should exercise caution when viewing this article as it contains names and images of deceased persons, which may cause distress to members of these communities.

On Monday, Western Australian Aboriginal footy legend Irwin Lewis passed away in his hometown of Morawa in WA's mid-west region. 

Mr Lewis was the first-ever Aboriginal student to attend the University of Western Australia, the second Aboriginal football player to represent the Claremont Tigers in the WAFL, and an artist with collections showcased throughout the country.

The Widi man who had connections to the Yamatji and Noongar people was known as a "skilful and physically robust half-back flanker" who "played the game hard."

"On behalf of the family, we'd like to thank all the people for their messages and condolences and the thoughts and wishes from everybody," Mr Lewis' son Clayton Lewis told NITV News.

"We're happy that dad passed away peacefully in his sleep in his hometown of Morawa in the state's mid-west, and we're sad but relieved that he's at rest now with his old people," he said.

Mr Lewis' three sons, Clayton, Cameron and Chris also played at the Claremont Football Club, and Chris played more than 200 games for the West Coast Eagles including the 1992 and 1994 premiership games.

But Mr Lewis was more than just a star on the footy field; he also excelled academically.

He was the dux of his junior cohort at Morawa State School and won a scholarship to attend Christ Church Grammar School in 1953.

In March 1957 he became the first Aboriginal person to attend the University of Western Australia, which is currently ranked No. 7 in the country and the top university in the state.

Mr Lewis went on to become one of the leading public servants in Indigenous welfare and development before retiring in 1989.

In his later years, he became one of the state's top Aboriginal artists whose work depict many of the tragedies that Aboriginal people have suffered in the years since colonisation.

He had collections at the National Maritime Museum in New South Wales, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, and Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra.

Mr Lewis passed away surrounded by family. He was 80 years old.

Irwin Lewis' image and name has been used with his family's consent.

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