Elder who campaigned for preservation of Fraser to be missed

A BUTCHULLA elder who advocated tirelessly to have her people recognised as the traditional owners of Fraser Island has died in Maryborough Hospital.

Hervey Bay's Marie Wilkinson, 82, will be remembered as someone who fought for the rights of her people and campaigned for the preservation of Fraser Island and its dingo population, Fraser Coast councillor George Seymour said.

She died on March 26.

SAD LOSS: Butchulla elder Marie Wilkinson has died in Maryborough Hospital. She has been remembered as a passionate advocate for her community.
SAD LOSS: Butchulla elder Marie Wilkinson has died in Maryborough Hospital. She has been remembered as a passionate advocate for her community. File

Her brother Fred Blackman said Marie had been an important member of the community, often doing the official welcome to country on behalf of the Butchulla people at the opening of new buildings and at events.

"She was a popular lady around the place," he said.

 

Mr Blackman said being part of the Hervey Bay Seafood Festival every year was something his sister had been fond of.

In October 2014, one of the causes Marie had fought for came to fruition, with the Butchulla people recognised as the traditional owners of Fraser Island in a Federal Court ruling.

On the anniversary of the ruling last year, Marie said it was an empowering decision for the community.

"You know if something was happening on Fraser Island or even over here at Hervey Bay or any of our Butchulla country, something that we thought was being destructive or not the right thing for the country and stuff, it gives us the right to have a say on that," she said.

Marie was also committed to helping the younger members of the tribe and she felt the ruling would have a positive effect on them.

Marie loved the dingos of Fraser Island and was a strong opponent of culling the animals, which she described as "reckless".

She said the destruction of dingoes on the island was "a continued attack on the rights and customs of the Butchulla people". "Dispossess the dingoes and you dispossess us," she said.

Mr Seymour said he had known Marie for more than 10 years.

"She had a very strong community spirit," he said.

"She has a strong legacy."

Marie's funeral will be held on April 6 from 10am at St Joseph's Catholic Church in Pialba.