Billy Craigie: Gomilaroy warrior
By Lara Pullin
Billy Craigie grew up in Gomilaroy country near Moree. He was a Gomilaroy warrior, and last month was laid to rest in a traditional burial. He died of a heart attack at the place he helped to build — "the Block" in Redfern.
Craigie was one of the co-founders of the 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy opposite Parliament House in Canberra. He was involved in its re-establishment in recent years to highlight the growing oppression of Aboriginal Australians.
Craigie was a tireless campaigner for his people. He was involved in the first campaigns for Aboriginal legal, housing and medical services. He was integral to the setting up of a friends network for Aboriginal people in custody.
A committed unionist, Craigie was on the wharves to defend the Maritime Union during the recent Patricks dispute.
Throughout his life, Craigie struggled for the rights of indigenous peoples in Australia and overseas. He represented Aborigines at international forums such as the United Nations Conference on Indigenous Peoples in Geneva. Matilda House, from the Ngunnawal Land Council, described him as someone who made a difference in the lives of Aboriginal people every day.
Billy Craigie was a man who lived by his principles. While he was often a critic of the various governments, he didn't stop at criticism but made sure something was done about it. He is survived by wife Isabel Coe, children and grandchildren.
Messages of condolence, support or donations of a practical or financial kind may be sent to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Old Parliament House, Canberra 2600.