Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Passing of Indigenous rights activist Dr Roberta Sykes

The death of Dr Roberta Sykes means Australia has lost a strong activist for Indigenous rights, a renowned author and an outstanding member of the community.

Dr Sykes died in Sydney on Sunday, following a long and debilitating illness.

Throughout her life Dr Sykes demonstrated her commitment to improving the rights and education of Indigenous Australians.

She gained a PhD in education from Harvard University in 1980, and was the founding Executive Secretary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy outside Old Parliament House in Canberra.

Dr Sykes was also a consultant to a wide range of government departments, including the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

As a leading advocate for Indigenous civil and political rights and education, Dr Sykes was awarded Australia’s highest humanitarian honour, the Australian Human Rights Medal, in 1994.

Over the course of her life she authored nine books including her acclaimed three-volume memoirs Snake Cradle, Snake Dancing, and Snake Circle, and also wrote, contributed to or co-authored hundreds of publications, journal articles and conference papers.

I extend my condolences to her family and friends.