A CROWD of more than 500 spilled out of Saint Martin's church in Mullumbimby for the funeral service for Aboriginal leader Sol Bellear, AM, who finally returned to Bundjalung country for burial following a state funeral in Sydney last Saturday.
Mourners remembered Mr Bellear as a giant of the land rights movement, a mentor and a fearsome rugby league player who will be sorely missed by his people and the nation.
Nephew Shane Phillips remembered the leadership his uncle displayed on the national stage whilst never forgetting his roots in Mullumbimby.
Mr Bellear was born in Murwillumbah on September 14, 1951 and attended Mullumbimby Public School and Mullumbimby High School.
"He grew up here and played his footy up here and became a strong activist and a great leader not only here but down in Sydney and all around the country,” Mr Phillips said.
Many at the ceremony spoke of Mr Bellear's prowess as a player and his lifelong love and support for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
"He was a gun footballer. He could have played at the highest level,” Mr Phillips said. "But he has left his mark on so many things.”
Mr Bellear's last great contribution to indigenous politics was the part he took in the Uluru deliberations earlier this year.
"Paul Coe, a great Aboriginal leader himself, said when everything was coming to a head at Uluru it was Uncle Sol with a steadying hand, urging people to keep pulling together.”
Among his many achievements, Mr Bellear was the inaugural chairman of the Aboriginal Legal Service, chairman of the Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern, a founding member of the Aboriginal Housing Company, and deputy chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in the 1990s.
Mr Bellear was 66 when he passed away on November 29, and a final message from the family said: "Although he achieved many great victories, much of his work remained unfinished at the end of his life. We ask those who loved Sol to please continue his work so that the vision he had for his country and people might one day be fulfilled.”
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