Aboriginal leader and activist elder James Yami Lester dies as age 68; more than 500 people attend funerals in northern South Australia
Best known for his anti-nuclear and indigenous rights advocating work, Yemi Lester was buried in his native land of Walatina Station in South Australia. More than 500 people attended the remote state ceremonies, in order to pay their respects.
The funeral service was a highly emotional one, as Lester was a very respected man in his community. Described as a brave and honest activist, Lester inspired both indigenous and non-indigenous people for many years.
“We owe him a great debt because he faced adversity with understated courage, with humility, with humour, with great strength. In a world without nuclear threats and risks, Mr. Lester would have been a great stockman. In a world with nuclear threats and risks, he would crack his whip loud, hard, sharp and constant, to sound a different alarm,” commented anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney.
Yami Lester was blinded by the “black mist” of a British nuclear bomb test in Maralinga back in the 1950s. Since then, he begun his fight against nuclear testing and for people affected by it. Moreover, Yami Lester was an active Indigenous land rights advocate, member of the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia and a supporter of the Uluru. For his lifelong work, he received the Order of Australia medal.
Karina Lester, his daughter, commented:
“He shared around tables, whether it was land rights, whether it was negotiations, the hand-back of Uluru. He really knew how to bring our message, our Anangu message, to the wider community.”
Politicians also payed tribute to Lester, South Australia Premier Jay Weatheril, Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and Labor MP Warren Snowden were present to say their farewell.
The South Australian government will soon provide a wider memorial, in order to officially recognize his extraordinary life and its contribution to the nation.