A beautiful voice and a powerful advocate for Indigenous health have been lost today with the passing of Jimmy Little, at the age of 75.
Below are some of the initial tributes from the health sector (I will continue to add more as they land).
The Australian Indigenous Health InfoNet has written about Little’s contributions in music and health:
James Oswald ‘Jimmy’ Little was born on March 1, 1937 at the Cummeragunja Mission in NSW. One of the first Indigenous artists to receive mainstream success in Australia, his hits included Royal telephone and Baby blue.
He received almost every major Australian music industry award during his career, including membership to the Tamworth Roll of Renown, plus honorary doctorates from QUT, Sydney University and The Australian Catholic University.
Following a successful kidney transplant in February 2004, Dr Little travelled around Australia attending community events, health seminars and music festivals. He was the patron of the Indigenous Doctors Association of Australia, and an ambassador for The Fred Hollows Foundation and Kidney Health Australia.
In 2006, he began the Jimmy Little Foundation to improve renal health across Indigenous communities in regional and remote Australia.
The Twittersphere is remembering him with great warmth and affection.
Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) issued this statement:
All Australians—not just Aboriginal Australians—have lost a true gentleman with the passing of Jimmy Little,” Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory [AMSANT] CEO John Paterson said today.
“So many of us remember his incredible legacy as a musician—no contemporary Aboriginal musician will forget his half century contribution, and the roads he opened.
“At AMSANT we will always remember his role as an Elder for Aboriginal health.
“Despite the personal sacrifices and pain he experienced, he became a vital ambassador for those of us who endure kidney disease, and all that goes with it.
“Although he was too ill to attend, he was a strong supporter of the AMSANT Fresh Food Summit in Tennant Creek in 2010.
“The work of the Jimmy Little Foundation in backing the importance of good nutrition will be yet another legacy of his life and commitment.
“He was an inspiration with his gentle leadership to our staff here at AMSANT on his visit to our office.
“On behalf of those staff and all our Members, may I pass our condolences to his family and the hundreds of thousands of friends he made through his music and his commitment to Aboriginal health.
“We will miss our uncle more than words can say.”
From the Federal Health Minister…
A statement from Warren Snowdon, the Federal Minister for Indigenous Health
The Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, has expressed his heartfelt sadness at the death of Jimmy Little AO, an inspirational Australian.
Jimmy Little was not only a remarkable Australian musician, but he was an outstanding advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
Mr Snowdon said Jimmy’s back catalogue of musical hits dates back to 1959, his success over half a century helped pave the way for the many young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists we have seen since then.
“I believe his greatest and most enduring contribution may be his work towards improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.”
“The Jimmy Little Foundation works towards increasing the life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, a daunting task for many, but one which Jimmy was committed to,” Mr Snowdon said.
“Jimmy Little was someone I knew, and had a great respect for, his career as an entertainer was illustrious, including his place in the ARIA Hall of Fame and as a National Living Treasure.”
“Yet it was his work as an advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and his work on the ground, at a community level, that was truly inspirational.”
Jimmy Little AO died after a long battle with illness, aged 75.
“He will be greatly missed, by all who knew him, and by those who’s health has been given a better outlook because of his work,” Mr Snowdon said.
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation statement:
“Thumbs up” to Jimmy Little AO, a national treasure
Mr Justin Mohamed, Chair of the NACCHO, representing approx 150 Aboriginal community controlled health services throughout Australia today joined Aboriginal and community leaders and specifically the Aboriginal health sector paying tribute to the life’s work of Dr Jimmy Little AO in music, Aboriginal issues and improving the health of Aboriginal people.
Whilst most Australians would know Jimmy as a music pioneer and consummate entertainer remaining a star for over 50 years, Mr Mohamed explained it was Jimmy himself who said, “I just want people to remember me as a nice person who was fair-minded and had a bit of talent that put it to good use.”
“And Jimmy Little sure did put it to good use creating the Jimmy Little Foundation to improve renal health across Aboriginal communities in regional and remote Australia” Mr Mohamed said.
Uncle Jimmy also developed the Thumbs Up to Healthy Tucker program that promoted an awareness of healthier food options in Aboriginal communities. The Program specifically focused on Aboriginal Australians, particularly children, to improve health through an increased awareness of healthy food choices.
Jimmy said in a recent interview: “They (Aboriginal people) have been just dismissed for so long. This was a shock and it made me angry to think that it got to that stage. So, if I can turn my anger into positive action, along with like-minded people, then, if I can save somebody a day or a week or a month or a year, I’m doing something from my own experience.”
Following a successful kidney transplant in February 2004, Jimmy travelled Australia attending community events, health seminars and music festivals. He was the patron of The Indigenous Doctors Association of Australia, an ambassador for The Fred Hollows Foundation and Kidney Health Australia.
Jimmy Little was also an ambassador for literacy and numeracy with the Federal Department of Education Science and Training, reinforcing positive messages to schoolchildren across Australia. He was awarded an AO (Order of Australia) for his continued work with Indigenous Health and Education programs and in 2004 a public vote named him “a living Australian treasure”.
On behalf of all our NACCHO Members and staff, may I pass our condolences to his family and the hundreds of thousands of friends he made through his music and his commitment to Aboriginal health.” Mr Mohamed said
The 7.30 Report’s tribute (warning to Indigenous communities that footage contains images of other deceased people)
And a 2009 report on Stateline