May 16, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Rights campaigner Roberta ‘Bobbi’ Sykes dies

2 min read

(Source | ABC News) Aboriginal rights campaigner Roberta Sykes has died at the age of 67, after suffering a debilitating illness for several years.

Bobbi Sykes, as she was better known, was an author and poet who became a national political figure as the executive secretary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in 1972.

Dr Sykes was the first black Australian to attend Harvard University in the 1980s and she received a PhD in education.

She then set up a fund for Indigenous women to study at Harvard.

Dr Sykes went on to win awards for her series of autobiographies, which in part charted her involvement with the protest movement.

She was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal in 1994 in recognition of her decades of campaigning for Aboriginal rights.

She also worked as an adviser in Aboriginal health and education.

Dr Sykes led lands rights protests in Sydney and Canberra and publicised the cause overseas.

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council has expressed its condolences to the family of Dr Sykes, who passed away on the weekend.

“Dr Sykes will be sorely missed by those who knew her and her passing is a sad day for the Aboriginal rights movement,” chairwoman Bev Manton said in a statement.

NSW Magistrate Pat O’Shane paid tribute to Dr Sykes, saying she had enormous energy and talent.

“She was a well-known author. I didn’t always agree with her content, but I do have to say that she wrote in a very entertaining style even if she was writing about truly serious socio-political issues and her writings will be more than ample legacy,” she said.

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