Yothu Yindi singer dies after disease battle

Indigenous readers please note - the video above contains images of a person who is now deceased

UPDATE: Indigenous leader and the former lead singer of Yothu Yindi was described as a "beacon of light" after his passing in the Northern Territory on Monday.

Mr Yunupingu, who co-wrote the international anthem Treaty, was a life-long advocate for indigenous health, education and reconciliation.

Former lead singer of Midnight Oil and School Education Minister Peter Garrett described him as a beacon of light for his family, community and the whole nation.

Mr Garrett was joined by Territorian and Veterans Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon in paying tribute to Mr Yunupingu in Canberra.

Mr Snowdon said it was with a deep sadness he paid tribute to a great Australian.

He said Yunupingu, who died after a long battle with renal disease, was able to pass in his homeland with his people.

Mr Snowdon said too many indigenous Australians had died too young away from their families, forced to travel to Darwin or Alice Springs to access dialysis services.


EARLIER: Former Yothu Yindi lead singer Yunupingu has been remembered as a "great Australian voice for reconciliation".

Prime Minister Julia Gillard issued a joint statement a short time ago paying tribute to the former Australian of the Year, who died overnight at his home in the Northern Territory.

"We have lost a uniquely talented musician, a passionate advocate for Aboriginal people and a truly great friend," the statement, which was also sent by Education Minister Peter Garrett and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, read.

"He leaves a great body of work to inspire us and we will need all of that inspiration, for so much work remains undone."

Federal Arts Minister Tony Burke said Australia had lost a great artist and one of its most important cultural figures.

He described it as a "sad day" for Australian music and indigenous culture.

"Mr Yunupingu didn't only create a fusion of musical styles and a celebration of Australian culture, he reached people in a way that only music can," Mr Burke said.

The 56-year-old  had been battling kidney problems for several years and was dealing with end-stage renal disease and had been undergoing dialysis.

In December he was taken to hospital after collapsing at home.

Yunupingu co-founded Yothu Yindi in 1986, and was the band's lead singer and most prominent personality.

He was named 1992 Australian of the Year in 1992 for his work as a musician and educator and his work in building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

Yunupingu was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame last December.

Yothu Yindi won eight ARIA awards, including Song of the Year in 1992 for Treaty, and Best Indigenous Release for Tribal Voice.

"This groundbreaking song (Treaty) was an important moment for Australia, bringing indigenous music and culture to commercial radio," Mr Burke said.

Mr Garrett, who worked with Yunupingu in his role as lead singer with Midnight Oil, also paid tribute on Twitter this morning.

"Can't believe he's gone, my dear friend. A path breaker and leader. A shining light for his people. Rest in peace Mr Yunupingu,'' he tweeted.

Mr Garrett and Northern Territory MP Warren Snwodon will speak to the media in Canberra later this morning.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Yunupingu was "a significant cultural leader figure to the wider Australian community as well as amongst Aboriginal people''.

"It's tragic that he's gone and I guess it's very sad that he's gone at such an early age."

* Mr Yunupingu's first name has not been used at the request of the family.

Topics:  aboriginal editors picks

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