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Artist and Aboriginal Activist

Nyungah Elder and Custodian of the Busselton and Margaret River Area, Western Australia

4 Sept 1948 - 26 Nov 2003
Died in the midst of his Homegrounds

Involved with his mother and family of 27 brothers and sisters in the Aboriginal Legal Service, Moral Re-armament and Soup Kitchens within the Perth district.

Educated at Perth Modern High School where he studied Technical Drawing.
Political Training - Clyde Cameron College, Wodonga.

Active Trade Unionist 1983-89.
Branch Executive and Delegate to State Council of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union.

Active in the Goonininup (Swan Brewery) Site Dispute.

Radio Broadcaster 1989-90. Golden West Network, Bunbury and 6NR.

Co-ordinator: Aboriginal Programme, Community Aid Abroad. Directed the North West Tour, Desert Tracks.
Participated in the evaluation of programmes in India, Thailand and the Phillipines.

Tireless Activist in Australia and international forums for his Nyungah community and the rights of all Aboriginal People.

Final Ceremony that laid Clarrie's Spirit to Rest
The Final Ceremony, organised by Nyungah elders, Kevin Cameron and Robert Bropho, was held at a spectacular place in the Hills looking down the huge Valley of the Helena River - on the Dreaming Track. It is where Clarrie has been before. There were 40-50 people there, Nyungah and other friends of Clarrie's. (Photographs by Vivenne Hillier)


Stories, Testimonials and Tributes

I would like to tell the story how Yaluritja got his fighting spirit. The family and my uncle Lesley R Isaccs the brother of Charles Samuel Isaacs Yaluritja`s father and all the children would every year on new years day have a joint family picnic at the small park opposite the brewery, those of use who know are aware that this was originally a mens initiation ground when white people first settled in Perth. This was also the only source of good drinking water (natural Spring).
This area was later taken from the traditional owners and elders who lived on the site for Perths first water supply. When Yaluritja was about 9 years old (it would have been 1959-60 when this incident took place because we were living at Aberdeen street West Perth) we had just finshed a great lunch and mum Elizabeth Isaacs (Dec)had put most of the plates aside and needed some water to do the washing up she called my cousin Robert L Isaacs (Dec) and Yaluritja to fetch some water from the spring.
The spring was at the time set up with water running from the hill through a pipe and a sort of headstone in the shape of a building and engraved words saying this was the first official water supply for Perth.
My brother and cousin went with several pots to get the water. litle brother wadded into the water and filled several pots and decided to have a drink from the spring pipe as he bent down and his mouth touched the pipe and flowing water he received a shock and fell unconcious into the water, cousin Bob rushed in and pulled him from the water, because of the fence around it he could not get my brother out of the water.
A man walking near the area saw the boys in trouble and jumped in the water to help he was also on a picnic with his family after geting my brother over the fence carried him to his car and rushed him to hospital by the time we started looking for my brother it was getting late and there was only two families left in the area.
The wife of the man came over and started talking saying her husband had gone and taken the family car and she was concerned he had not come back. Mum said we were also concerned that the two boys had gone missing, we found the pots at the spring, at about sun set the man came back and took mum to the hospital to see little brother, we made it home by taxi and family transport.
The story was in the newspaper several days later with little brother and cousin Bob thanking the man for his assistance. they investergated (SEC) the so called electric shock my little brother had received they dug all around the the spring only to find there was no electrical wires anywere near the spring.
What had happened that day was my little brother was chosen to fight for the brewery site in the future the spirit he received was from the Wagyl the running water and the limestone (skeleton of the crocodile serpent).
I was convinced that the backbone and spirit of the Wagyl and the spirit of the old people who watch over the site chose my little brother that day to champion the fight for Noongar nations people. Yaluritja in the Arnhem land language where I live means "later on". You did not disapoint us or the spirits of old the brewery site you were given the honour of passing in your homelands. Rest in peace Yaluritja my little brother thank you for what you have done for our Noongar nation I miss you and will catch up with you there, your big brother
David Watjapa Simmons -


Memories of Clarrie Isaacs - Yaluritja - flooded through me after I heard of his death.
My first meeting with Clarrie was at the Brewery Picket in Mounts Bay Road. He had confronted an 0n-duty policeman whose identy badge was covered, and Clarrie told him to show his badge. The policeman looked around, realised he was on camera, then obeyed.
Clarrie's store of witty anecotes about the private lives and peccadilloes of WA's public figures reminded me of the time in history when Noongar elders told white authorities the names of all the blacks who'd been killed in the new colony, describing exactly where they were shot and who had shot them. "The accuracy with which they mark out the persons implicated should serve as a caution to the public in regulating their conduct," warned the Perth Gazette editor in 1833.
Clarrie had thousands of address cards from people he'd met throughout Australia and the world, for he was a global citizen and had met some eminent figures, among them Bill Clinton who saw Clarrie's worth and offered him a job.
At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Clarrie spoke at the Tent Embassy set up by Aboriginal leader, Isobel Coe. Indigenous delegates from each Australian State mesmerised audiences of international media and visitors who came to see traditional smoking ceremonies and hear about living standards of Australia's first people. For two weeks, Clarrie slept on the ground in a tiny tent, possessions (including his insulin) in one plastic bag. Photo-journalists, newspaper reporters and freelance writers from Argentina, USA, Norway, Japan, China, Canada, South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands, France and elsewhere queued to interview him, for they recognised his intelligence and thoughtfulness, his patience and his selfless belief in aiming for a better world.
Have people any idea how hard Clarrie Isaacs worked? He never gave up on his people, and he never gave up on humanity.
In his front yard at Koondoola he had a Christmas Tree, Moodjar, the Noongar spirit tree. Is Clarrie there now, calling us to carry on the fight for justice?
Irene Cunningham


Like so many others I was shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Clarrie Isaacs. While people rightly speak of him being a tireless campaigner, he was also a very clever political strategist and a master of the punchy one liner for radio and print journalists alike. There are countless stories and I would like to share but one. Way back in 1993 Australia was in the midst of the national "debate" about Native Title and the proposed legislative response to the Mabo decision. Prime Minister Paul Keating was only meeting with a select team of Aboriginal negotiators that some folk called the "A Team". Late in that year Keating was in Perth and held a less formal meeting with West Australian Aboriginal leaders at the Churchlands Campus of Edith Cowan University; they were probably about 50 people present. Keating barred any media from entering the meeting and gave a carefully controlled presentation of his position. At the end of Keating's talk Clarrie went to the podium, addressed the Prime Minister in the appropriate fashion and took three small calico bags and presented them to Keating. He said something like: You came and gave us tea, flour and sugar and took our land away. I now return your tea, flour and sugar; please return my land". Keating was furious and gave Clarrie a serve; then realising he had lost the plot and lost the support of the people there Keating closed the meeting and left. Once again, Clarrie had made his point, simply and cleverly.
Stephen Hall

So many of us have wonderful personal memories and stories to tell about Clarrie. He was a soul mate to many of us, a kind and gentle man who touched us deeply.
He walked into our lives with that wonderful smile and we just couldn't help ourselves, he was our dearest friend, brother, father, teacher, hero and warrior. A creative and inspired thinker and communicator It was his magic, what he did best.
Most of us were caught up in his absolute commitment to environmental and human rights, his unstoppable drive to improve the lives of Nyungah People and to expose the greed and lies that were at the source of racial disharmony.
He traveled the world seeking justice for his people and his gift for touching hearts, went with him on all of his journeys. He loved to share the excitement of his adventures, and as his journeys became more frequent so the stories grew longer.
One such time not so long ago we were out to dinner with friends at Moore River, we started as a table of four, but as usual more people gathered as he told of his journey's to Libya and Brazil, his stay with the Native Americans in South Dakota, His spiritual journey to Mecca, The Peace Camp in Baghdad and so on. . . He stopped talking momentarily and amongst the 12 or so people now surrounding our table a lady said: "I don't remember seeing that film, what was it called, I'd love to go and see it". His life was a bit like a movie.
Clarrie grabbed every chance to get on talk back radio. and for a time one radio station banned him air time, Clarrie's truth was just far too powerful and the public was denied even a possibility of understanding.
But as everyone knows we used to gather on Tuesday mornings at the Old Swan Brewery, but one week Clarrie wanted to change the routine and for us all to meet at Kennedy's Fountain on Wednesday instead. So about thirty of us gathered with all the flags flying, and after a while a van pulled up with a reporter from one of the radio stations wanting to know what was happening. Clarrie said 'we were expecting 200 or so Aboriginal People to arrive around lunchtime and that we would be setting up camp and the campaign was on again!' so one happy reporter took off at full speed to her radio station with a fantastic coup, and even some of us wondered !!! But twenty minutes later we were heading off in our cars with radios tuned in to hear the announcement that "battle lines were drawn again down at the Old Swan Brewery" Clarrie's spontaneous sense of fun kept us all in good spirits, we were all part of this huge extended family.
Even when Clarrie was standing amongst wretched memories of the past he found positive ways to release his sorrow. I remember about 12 years ago a few of us went to the premier of a film shown on Rottnest. A movie about a young Aboriginal surfing champion who whilst on Rottnest tuned in through dreams to the torment of another Aboriginal boy taken from Wave Rock in chains to be incarcerated there. As the movie ended too late for a ferry home, we were allocated the old Wardens Cottage to share with Iva and Charmaine for the night. Clarrie couldn't sleep, he was so restless and paced around all night so very distressed. At dawn we took off to the beach returning later Clarries arms full of paper and sticks and he lit a fire in the hearth. But the smoke wouldn't go up the chimney, it was obviously sealed and it just poured back into the room, .But he still went on creating more smoke and pretty soon the room was full of it. I went off to the kitchen and pretty soon Iva and Charmaine joined me wondering what was going on?
We reasoned it would soon die down as Clarrie run out of sticks, but No! he was off outside again and back with another bundle of wood! We understood and respected what he was doing but were also seriously concerned he might choke, and Iva soon decided it was time to rush into the room and throw open the doors and windows.
Well by now there were a few visitors around who saw all this smoke billowing out of the cottage and they rushed in to see who they could rescue, took one look at us and rushed out again! By then our smoke filled eyes were shedding tears of laughter as Clarrie said he reckoned they thought the Aborigines had come to burn down the Island.
We shared 14 years of friendship, journeys and stories of his adventures, He would want us to share these accounts of his life, it's a way of keeping his memory alive. Clarrie died in his own country on a campaign that would protect the forest, doing what he loved the most. there will never be anyone like you again Clarrie No wonder we all loved you,
Rest in Peace my friend.
Jill Brown

Clarrie was known both to myself and Samina Yasmeen, my wife.
Clarrie came to talk to my engineering students at The University of WA. I remember how one student just could not understand the point he was making, namely that Aboriginal people are like any other people: everyone has their own individual aspirations, and trying to work out "a solution" that fits all is bound to fail. The student asked a question...."Look, I can understand that Aboriginal people need help, can you just tell us what you people need most?". Clarrie answered "Bright red T-shirts actually, mate!" The rest of the students who had understood what he was trying to say just laughed, and Clarrie immediately won their respect and admiration!
May Allah Greet him as a friend.
James Trevelyan

I would like to add my words and thoughts to those of many others who mourn the passing of this wonderful, brave, passionate and committed man. While I have not had contact with him over the past few years, I will always retain the memory of his quiet dignity and humour in the face of great aggravation and oppression and his tireless activism for his people and country and for anyone anywhere who was facing oppression or injustice. He was a good friend and a trusted colleague in many battles from the Swan Brewery protests, Surviavl day celebrations, Native Title Debate1993, immigration/racism issues, countless election campaigns and a sharer of stories of First peoples in America and Canada. My condolences go to all his family and many friends as we celebrate and reflect on what he gave to all of us.
Christabel Chamarette

I'll always remember Yaluritja Clarrie Isaacs. I was overseas and have only just returned and learned of his tragic passing. It came as a shock. An indefatigable political militant and human right campaigner, rallying and inspiring the massed pickets at the Goonininup-Old Swan Brewery site - megaphone to mouth, fearless in the face of government intimidation, media denigration, hostile public opinion and imminent police crackdown - he epitomised the Aboriginal resistance to the boundless greed and selfishness of the Perth wealthy classes, and the defiance of their running dogs in the establishment political parties. Clarrie would not give up. A fighter against racism to his core. They never broke him.
So long comrade.
Steve Mickler

The untimely death of Yaluritja Clarrie Isaacs was a great shock and grief for us all. Clarrie was consistent, firm and a man of principles. He was always kind and a good and sincere friend. He was a tireless struggler and activist for justice for his indigenous people. He had the qualities of modesty and true leadership. Clarrie's loss is a loss not only for his indigenous people and Australia as a whole but to the Palestinian people and all who struggle for justice.
I convey my deepest sympathy and condolences to all his family, to the indigenous people of Australia and to all his many friends who will miss him always as I will.
May Allah grant his soul tranquility and mercy and to his people long-awaited justice and peace.
Ali Kazak
Head of the General Palestinian Delegation to Australia
Ambassador of Palestine to Vanuatu

As a 'young' 19 year old trainee radio producer working at WAAMA (WA Aboriginal Media Assoc.) in Perth, I remember how nervous I was when I was told to provide a continuous coverage of the protest action at Gooniniup (Swan Brewery area). I knew that the experience would be life changing see...I wasn't very confident in my Aboriginality. My family is one of the many traumatised by decades of dispossession, poverty, 'protection' policies and extermination. The protest placed me at the core of what it is to be Aboriginal today. What are you prepared to fight for? Where will you draw the line? Are you a person of principle? How can you be objective when so much threatens our spiritual and cultural heritage? All of these questions ran through my head as I held that microphone and recorded the unfolding of events at Gooniniup...women's place....sacred place.
It was Yaluritja (Clarrie) who reached out and warmly welcomed me to the fray. His quiet humour and dignified manner when confronted by those of the intolerant majority was impressive and educational for me as a young person. He was truely an uncle to me and my sister, Julie Dowling because he wasn't afraid of pain and suffering. He knew that what mattered was if you were a person true of heart and that you dreamed of a day when our people would have self determination and true freedom. He knew that the fight wouldn't end with him. He knew it was up to future generations of Noongars, Yamatjis, Wongis, Bardi's bring about justice. We have lost his guiding hand but we will keep the struggle going.
Not many people knew that Clarrie once became a trainee radio producer at WAAMA. He lasted two weeks. The reason he resigned was a wonderful one and it taught me alot about the difference between western media and what should be offering here in Perth for Noongars. Clarrie said that he could no longer work for WAAMA because he could not be objective...he could not work in a job that meant he had to distance himself from social action. Perhaps this is what WAAMA should be about today? Where are our voices of protest on the airwaves...why are so many white people still so ignorant and racist? Have we lost our words of resistance? I celebrate Clarrie's life, not just because he was a great man, but because he wasn't shame about reading out music requests on a Saturday night. He knew it was important for our brothers and sisters inside prisons to hear the music and messages sent to them from their mothers and families. Clarrie loved doing that because he knew it would directly give hope to someone, anyone who was Noongar and in dispair. His heart was so big. That was the man I knew. This is the man I will miss. I know your mother would have been so proud of what you achieved in your life, Clarrie. Thank you for showing us the meaning of being Aboriginal today.
Carol Dowling
on behalf of her family

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon his soul.
He lived his life as a Mudjihadin in the ways of Allah and has died the death of a purified martyr.
May he be in a garden where purified waters flow.

Asalam-Alakom – Peace be upon you brother
Maurice Agale

Yaluritja Clarrie Isaacs - a lifetime of activism

PERTH — On December 2, as the morning sun sparkled from the river’s quiet surface, more than a hundred people gathered at Gooniniup, the Nyungah women’s sacred site, also known as the old Swan Brewery. We recalled the campaign waged during the 1980s and 1990s, when Nyungah people and others united in a bid to prevent a corrupt government and a greedy developer from desecrating a sacred place.

Aboriginal flags, T-shirts and ribbons were displayed proudly. Familiar faces were greeted, stories exchanged — but the mood was one of sorrow rather than celebration. One of the key leaders of the struggle against the brewery development was not present. We were there to remember and celebrate the life of Yaluritja Clarrie Isaacs, whose sudden death on November 26, at just 55 years of age, shocked and saddened us all.
Clarrie’s sharp wit and willingness to take a stand earned him plenty of enemies in the WA establishment — but the mainstream media portrayal of him as a lone shit-stirrer was false. “Clarrie was not a renegade, he did not act alone, he always had our support. He had the support of his people”, Robert Bropho told the memorial meeting.
At the time of his death, Yaluritja was a Nyungah elder and custodian of the Busselton and Margaret River area of WA. He was also the chairperson of the Rottnest Island Deaths Group, and involved with the Nyungah Patrol, the Aboriginal Advancement Council, and the campaign to save the Ludlow Tuart forest, to name but a few. His warmth and generosity were noted by most who met him.
Clarrie was born in 1948, one of an extended family of 27 from the south-west of WA. His family was involved in the early Aboriginal Legal Service. Clarrie was a convert to Islam, and having made a pilgrimage to Mecca, earned the right to the title Haj. He was also a justice of the peace.
In the 1970s, Clarrie was active in the Water Supply Union, including as its president. In 1981, the WSU merged with the Federated Miscellaneous Workers’ Union. Clarrie served as a state councillor and executive member of the FMWU from 1982 to 1989. Here Clarrie first encountered FMWU leader Jim McGinty, later to become a state Labor minister. Clarrie also offered his solidarity with other workers in struggle, including the occupiers of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard in Sydney.
During this time, Clarrie helped found the Rottnest Island Deaths Group. Rottnest was used as a concentration camp for Aboriginal people from 1831 to the 1930s. The many people who holidayed there each year had no idea of the island’s shocking and brutal past, until the Deaths Group documented the graves on Rottnest and raised community awareness.
The 1980s also saw the beginnings of the brewery struggle. The old Swan Brewery was built in the 1890s, over a water source sacred to Nyungah women. The building was abandoned in the 1960s. Through a series of shonky deals in the 1980s, the state government bought the site at a big loss.
The then-premier, Labor's Carmen Lawrence, did a deal. In effect, Multiplex Construction boss (and Labor campaign donor) John Roberts was handed the site free, to develop it as luxury apartments and restaurants. McGinty, by then heritage minister, was given the job of ramming the development through.
Nyungah people set up a year-long protest camp at the brewery site. Their wishes were simple: remove the old buildings and make the site a public park, to restore its significance as a sacred site. Thousands joined the brewery protests in solidarity.
Yaluritja was a key leader of the brewery protests, and his imaginative and colourful tactics have become legend: installing a mailbox and insisting Australia Post deliver letters direct to the camp; climbing the Norfolk pine tree and tying the Aboriginal flag right at the top; and painting everything he could red, black and yellow — including the concrete barriers erected by the developers. Yaluritja and Bropho were inspirational leaders at the community pickets.
Eventually, the WA government bypassed the federal government's laws, frustrated the legal challenges, forced the lifting of the work ban some unions had placed on the site, and used masses of police to break the community picket on the morning of August 26, 1992. This was still not the end of the dispute — Multiplex and the government had to fight further legal challenges which stalled the development three more years.
In 1988, to highlight 200 years of racism and genocide, Clarrie, Michael Mansell and other Aboriginal activists travelled to Libya, on passports issued by the Provisional Aboriginal Government of Australia. Clarrie continued to use the title “President of the Aboriginal Government”.
He told the 2001 UN Conference against Racism: “If all Australians had the same experiences as Aboriginals, a third of them would not be alive today.” He and Ellie Gilbert, widow of poet and activist Kevin Gilbert, went to this conference at their own expense to represent the Sovereign Union of Aboriginal Nations and Peoples in Australia.
Clarrie was a strong supporter of all anti-racist campaigns, in particular the campaign against the apartheid regime in South Africa. In 1996, with the election of Prime Minister John Howard and the rise of Pauline Hanson, Clarrie travelled the country speaking as part of a “justice tour”. In the 1996 WA election he stood as part of the Racism No! ticket.
Clarrie supported the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra and participated in the Sydney protests against the 2000 Olympics. He also battled WA’s racist media — particularly shock-jock Howard Sattler, who described the car-crash deaths of two Aboriginal boys as “good riddance to bad rubbish”. In 2001, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal found Sattler guilty of racial discrimination.
In 1999, Clarrie lost much of his work and possessions in a house fire, the cause of which has never been satisfactorily explained.
Clarrie was direct and honest — and he was not afraid to speak his mind. For example, in 1996 he attacked the federal Labor government’s Native Title legislation: “We expected native title, but we got native welfare ... the Native Title Tribunal has been an instrument to coerce the Indigenous peoples of Australia to accept the Labor Party's policy of compensation which, as at the 1st September 1994, amounted to a grand sum of less than $124 for each Indigenous person of Australia.” Clarrie could be equally fierce in his condemnation of those supporting the government line, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.
In 2001, Clarrie was the lead Senate candidate in WA for the Socialist Alliance, condemning the government’s treatment of refugees and the looming war on Afghanistan.
I last saw Clarrie at an October 23 rally in Forrest Place against Bush’s visit. He gave the Nyungah welcome to country — the welcoming smile and outstretched hand in greeting, and always that huge land rights flag over one shoulder, the one with the yellow map of Australia at its centre.
That remains my final memory of a leader whose struggles will live on through what he inspired in us all. Yaluritja Clarrie Isaacs, you will not be forgotten.
[Colleagues & friends are invited to attend the funeral service of Clarrie Isaacs (Yaluritja) (Mohamad) at Karrakatta Cemetery, Railway Road, Karrakatta on December 12 at 3pm. Donations in lieu of flowers to the Nyungah Patrol, 28 Lindsay Street, Perth 6000 would be appreciated. Tributes can be viewed and submitted to the web site <>.


At Goonininup
the morning fire crackles like sparklers.
The dolphins explode, unexpected,
from the Swan River's silvery surface.
The rainbow plays above the bridging arches.
Herons row through
the Kennedy Fountain branches.
Bropho mooches around the fence;
setting bamboo staffs in place,
encircling the sacred site with golden suns.



is special
We look up.
Our flag flies
from the tip top
of the tallest pine tree,
high up in the blue air.
Our hearts sing with joy.
By what miracle is it there?
Our brave knight man, our upright man,
Clarrie Isaacs,
climbed up
last night.
True? Yeah!
Remembering Clarrie Issacs
My heart sunk at the news of Yaluritja's (Clarrie Issacs) death. It was a life too short, but so full.
His life was grounded in the Aboriginal community but managed to weave its way through the socialist left, trade unions, the Arabic community and so many others. It is a testament Clarrie that he was part of so many "mobs" and touched so many lives.
Clarrie's decades of struggle with life and politics would have worn down many and bread cynicism in others, but Clarrie's passion and sharp wit were unstoppable and his smile was infectious.
In the 1996 WA State elections Clarrie and I ran together for the "Racism No" ticket. The election was fought in the midst of Hanson hysteria, yet thanks to Clarrie it was one of the most enjoyable and memorable times of my life.
During the campaign I recieved one of our leaflets returned in the mail, it had been defaced with racist threats of violence. I told Clarrie about it - he put a reasurring hand on my shoulder and with his cheeky smile said, "mate, in this business you don't know that you're alive unless you get atleast two death threats a week!"
This was typical Clarrie. He didn't care about the odds, or about the personal consequences. He cared about fighting for his community, his ideals and for a better world.
I remember his passion, his strength but above all I remember his laughter. His life was an inspiration to us all and will never be forgotten.
Arun Pradhan, Northcote, Melbourne


I received the news of Clarries death with great sadness. In 1988 in Libya I was assigned as a guide for Clarrie and Michael and Darlene Mansell and other Aboriginal people from Australia and New Zealand. My job was to show them Libya, let them meet Libyan culture and people.
The biggest surprise came, when his mates told me Clarrie was Muslim. He was far to modest to talk loud about himself.
Anyway, Clarrie and his mates took the grand tour of Libya with a finale meeting of Gadhafi at the People´s Conference in Tripoli and participating in the National Celebrations of September 1.
During the time I was assigned a guide for Clarrie and his mates I learned SO MUCH about the situation, history and culture of the Aboriginal people of Australia and New Zealand. Clarrie gave me a t-shirt and a book about a young Aboriginal killed in prison and I still have those things.
Although I screwed up on several occasions regarding Arab and Aborginal cultural exchanges, Clarrie patiently sorted out the mistakes. I am very grateful for having had the opportunity to meet him.
Safia Aoude


I was saddened to hear of Clarrie's sudden death. He will be missed, but I'm sure his spirit will live on in all protests against injustice. I was privileged to have known and worked with him for many years, to have been inspired by his passion and determination and to have been entertained by his many stories.
Carolyn Tan


For Clarrie
I worked with Clarrie just last week on what has turned out to be the last of his many campaigns for the recognition of Aboriginal heritage. The fight to protect the tall Tuarts at Ludlow, WA s rarest type of old growth forest, has once again seen greenies stand alongside Nyungars, working together to preserve a special bit of country, a site that is sacred for both cultures. It has been a great privilege and pleasure for me to get to know this wonderful warm hearted warrior, surely one of the most effective campaigners, black or white, that WA has ever seen. That is because Clarrie campaigned with a very positive energy, with respect for others, not hate. The Saturday before he died he came on stage at the Bunbury sound shell, at the Stand for the Tuarts free concert, talked heritage, and played the didgeridoo with Billy Webb and the Wardandi dancers. Two thousand young white Australians were listening. It was a performance for the earth. Then followed the passion of John Butler on guitar. The trees could surely hear us roar. Now that s reconciliation for you! The very day he died Clarrie was down in the forest at Ludlow, surveying for artefacts, working til the very end to win recognition for Aborigines. He was a great leader, not only for his people, but for us all.
Dr Chrissy Sharp MLC for the South West for the Greens(WA).


Rubbing shoulders with Clarrie
After a coffee one morning at Scarborough Beach, I saw a very small group of protestors standing outside Observation City or whatever it is called now- Bondie's high-rise wrought. The various protestors were voicing their concerns about the plight of "boat people" and the federal governments' treatment of all refugees. I felt strongly about these issues and joined in to try and find out more information. I happened to stand next to Clarrie (who I didn't know personally) when a fellow came out from the building and had a shot at Clarrie. Why he picked on Clarrie I don't know, but one of the things he said to him was "if you don't like it here, why don't you go back to your own country?" The irony was heavy, but the ex-serviceman missed it. Clarrie without anger offered him a few bits of information- clearly and simply. The fellow pushed passed him roughly, and so I rubbed shoulders with Clarrie.
I really appreciate that contact. I saw Clarrie over the next year or so giving his voice to the Anti-War movements. Clarrie you did a great deal for your people and country and you knew that we all really do live in the one country- our beautiful and endangered world.
Kerry Mulholland

You will be so sorely missed – with your passion, vitality and commitment to the struggle of your people and for justice everywhere –
You were such a fighter and an inspiration – I can’t remember a time when you weren’t campaigning around some issue, going overseas to the UN or on some other important mission, protesting, talking to the media, holding your flag proudly – you were just always there – everywhere.
But more than that, your optimism and humour, your ready jokes and great stories radiated in this often harsh and humourless world –
Your life has been cut short so unfairly yet you achieved so much and touched so many –
I hope we can live up to your memory and continue your struggle –
You will be in our hearts and minds forever –
Ana Kailis

YALURITJA (Clarrie Issacs) is an inspiration to me. Firm in his opinions, passionate in his beliefs and true to both. As I sit here in Melbourne looking at his smiling photograph on the website, images and emotions aplenty swarm over me. I'm sad for a life cut short yet happy that he lived it to the full. I despair because so little has changed for the better but exultant because I am fortunate to be one of the many many people who have shared his life and the struggles that burned deep into his heart. Images come to me of him climbing up the high high pine tree on the Old Swan Brewery site to carefully tie the flag to its topmost part during our years of picketing. Going across the water to Rottnest Island to stop the Bond Corporation and State Government desecrate what to many of us is a sacred war grave. Arriving on Cockatoo Island during a long workers occupation and seeing him around the striker's campfire, telling stories of struggle across the continent and around the world, giving encouragement to a defeated workforce. Travelling with him along dusty desert paths, opposing the exploitation of Aboriginal land and the enviroment by mining companies and their governments. Watching his anger as the W.A. BLF and their shop stewards, hand in glove with Australia's richest construction company and a government led by the dregs of the ALP broke our unions and the communities picket line; to be labelled a scab by Clarrie Issacs is a shameful thing. Listening to his stories of starving in a Jordanian jail before escaping with the Palestinians, being wrongly arrested in Rome, travelling the Americas, the legendary meeting with Ghadafi and many more. But most of all I feel very privileged to have been his friend and comrade.
Bill Ethell

At the meeting of the Fremantle Greens on Monday we made a tribute to Clarrie and all he stood for. We salute all his efforts and hard work. He continues to be an inspiration to all of us. He will stand head and shoulders above us all. I did not know him personally but have certainly heard and seen him many times and sat next to him on several occasions, exchanging a few words. I have to acknowledge his gentleness and humility. We make recognition of to his wonderful personality.
Marion Blair, Co-convener of Fremantle Greens


I am shocked and very saddened by Clarrie’s untimely death last week. Clarrie was a wonderful person to know, and in my book the activist’s activist. I will always remember Clarrie’s brave and unshakeable commitment to his people and to social justice and the environment. This spirit he carried with him in his frequent visits to Libya and to UN forums. Clarrie had a burning desire to see the Aboriginal Nation come into being, and to link up with indigenous freedom fighters in other parts of the world. He knew this was a tough call, with forces of repression ever increasing in strength. But that only drove him to advocate the cause more vigorously.
He showed an idiosyncratic but inspiring approach to demos and rallies — Clarrie often came up with refreshingly original ideas and actions —typified by his brilliant and outspoken T-Shirts, of which we reckon a set should be collected for the WA Museum. And remember the Aboriginal flag atop the Norfolk Pine next to the Brewery, at the height of the dispute. To be ever-ready for action, Clarrie usually carried a kit with him, which included bolt-cutters and chains, often handy!.
When I was in Parliament (87-93 as Member for Perth), Clarrie, then working for the Water Board and very active as a Misco’s Union rep, was a frequent and enlivening presence in the Mt Lawley Electorate office. If only more constituents had been like him : you could be sure the issue he brought to our attention was really worthwhile and broad-ranging. I was proud to be able to help him lobby on some of these issues and later to join him and thousands of others at the Old Brewery protests. But Clarrie was more than a political ally, he became a friend : often he would just drop in for a chat, and to share over a cuppa the latest joke told in his inimitable way. Or to swap stories about the Labor government’s continuing overriding of its own principles and the membership’s increasing restiveness. Unlike some, Clarrie had no doubts over the decision of three ALP MPs : me, Frank Donavon and Pam Buchanan to resign the ALP and see out our terms as Independents.
Clarrie, brother, you are sorely missed.
Ian Alexander


I am proud to have known Clarrie Isaacs for many years. Clarrie and Reihana Mohideen stayed with myself and my partner in Adelaide during the Justice Tour. I have since returned to Perth and spent some time talking to him recently during a family day to raise community awareness about the proposed mining of the Ludlow Forest. Clarrie has always been an inspiration to me and I’m shocked at his death. This is a poem I wrote about Clarrie in Adelaide. I will miss him.

Maureen Sexton Clarrie
he is on a pilgrimage to Mecca
feasting with the king,
asleep in a palace in Malaysia
bargaining with the mafia,
at a conference in Rio
being fed, at last,
he is with the Indians in Dakota
3 soldiers to every 1 Indigenous person,
in Libya with Gadaffi
with thirteen alike,
in a prison in Jordan
in a refugee camp for a week,
sabotage developments at the brewery
fighting in the courts,
speaking about justice
opposing Hanson’s racism,
speaking out to help his people
an active activist,
he is a flag held high
red and black and yellow,
he is Yaluritja.

To my friend,warrior,and great leader, I will never forget you mate. Thank you for all the advise and the many campaigns you fought in for your people and the working class. Myself and my Union will miss a truly GREAT leader. Deepest sympathy to your family.
Chris Cain, State Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia

Ah-the wonders of life. May Clarrie's crossing with the Rainbow Serpent liberate his energetic form to freedom.
I was very fortunate in having the opportunity to meet and spend time with Clarrie in January, 2002. This event occurred during my first trip to Perth. I was advised upon my arrival to immediately contact Clarrie, a Nyungah Elder, and intentionally request permission from a representative of the Aboriginal community to visit and respect their country whilst staying in Australia. I was traveling abroad from Denver, Colorado. Clarrie granted me permission to visit and invited me to experience some very important scared sites belonging to his culture.
Clarrie personally came around to where I was staying and with the initial introductions he and I took off in his vehicle, filled it up with petrol and proceeded to the Swan Valley Campsite. On our way Clarrie exuded childlike agility, humour and an awareness way beyond my own of the land we call Australia. When we arrived at the Swan Valley Campsite, Clarrie gracefully walked me around describing the significances of the site, one being the importance of the acknowledgement of the sacredness of and respect for Mother Earth. At this point we were standing on top of a bushy knoll recently touch by fire. Clarrie generously offer to take a timed photograph of us both joined arm-in-arm as a visual testimony to the oneness of us all.
Recapitulating to this wonderful event shared with Clarrie my very being tingles with the knowledge and awareness of indigenous cultures as far more subtle and enduring of life than their Western counterpart of which I am surely a product. As a result I now sense the Western "World View" taught from the moment I was born as but one narrow view of reality. As a member of Western society it occurs to me we contain all the reasoning of our being inside our heads, in the physical brain. For the most part we miss the duality of our being connected by spirit to infinity.
Clarrie my mate, you will surely be missed by the beings you have energetically touch in your life time. May you continue your journey to complete freedom. With all my heart.
Kerry Sharrock, 75 Forest Street, Denver, Colorado, USA

T-shirt design, 1989

Dear Friends,
I was very sad to hear of Clarrie's untimely death. They told me at a visit to the Tent Embassy in Canberra. Perhaps at the memorial service you can show the shot from the video "Always Was Always Will Be" of the flag that he put at the top of the tall tree at the protest site in 1989? There are VHS tapes in the library if no one has one to hand. Clarrie was always very kind to me. I'm too sad to say more. Please give my best to everyone there.....they are all very precious to me. Regards Martha Ansara (Sydney)

Yaluritja Clarrie Isaacs passes away
by Frederico Fuentes, Green Left Weekly
The fight for Aboriginal rights, and for a better world, received a blow on November 26, with the passing away of Yaluritja Clarrie Isaacs. Clarrie, an Aboriginal activist, trade unionist, artist and fighter for social justice, died suddenly in his sleep at the age of 55. His memory will live on, however, with anyone who ever met him.
Clarrie led an amazing life, and was never short of a story to tell about it. He was perhaps Perth’s most well-known Aboriginal activist. A tireless fighter for the rights of his people, he campaigned for over 14 years against the Swan Brewery redevelopment in Perth, which was built on sacred Aboriginal land.
He was well respected among his own community, for both his defence of Aboriginal rights and because he helped out in any way he could. He took the issue of Aboriginal rights to the international scene, addressing United Nations conferences on racism as the president of the Aboriginal Government of Australia. In 1988, he joined a delegation to Libya led by Tasmanian activist Michael Mansell where they met with Libyan President Muammar Gaddhafi.
In 1997, at a time when Aboriginal people were under sustained verbal attack from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, and even more serious attack, via de-funding of services, from the recently elected federal Coalition government, Clarrie toured Australia as part of a “justice tour” to help build an anti-racist struggle. The tour was sponsored by Green Left Weekly.
He was an active trade unionist from 1983 to 1989 and served as a branch executive member and delegate to the state council of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union. He was a member of the Socialist Alliance, and in 2001 ran as the lead Senate candidate for the Socialist Alliance in Western Australia.
As a tribute to Clarrie Isaacs and his fighting spirit, friends and supporters are encouraged to meet on December 2 at the Dreaming Site of the Waugal at Goonininup (Old Swan Brewery) from 7am onwards. This was the time and place where, for many years, people could drive past and see Clarrie protesting the redevelopment.

Yelaritja was also on the executive committee at the Aboriginal Advancement Council where we raised $1.4million dollars to redevelop the old Nyungar Centre at 201 beaufort Street Perth between 1992 and current. Yelaritja was a founding member of the Nyungar Patrol Services in Northbridge and was heavilly involved with this for the last 6 years, he was the secretary and was very proud on the NPS as he was very active and represented us at numerous meetings of Saferwa, City of Perth, DCD and of late was the secretary for a period of 3 months at Dertbarl AMS.
I have known Jelaritja for the past 20 yrs as a close associate and friend who had a wonderful sense of humour and was set upon people being made accountable.
Nev Collard

FROM; Sharon Joy van den Haak
28 Curedale Street, Beaconsfield 6162
9433 6201
My heart is sad for the loss to the world of Clarrie Issacs, a warrior of our times.
I was an activist with Clarrie in the early 1990's when we organised a gathering for Equality and Justice at the Fremantle Esplanade on Foundation Day 1992, following the release of the Report on Black Deaths in Custody. This was before the days of Mabo and reconciliation.
We asked everyone to sign a Freedom Charter for equality and justice for Indigenous Australians about 50 people gathered. In October that year, I wrote an article for the Fremantle Herald: "Terra Nullius is Alive and Well," about the governments response to the Swan Brewery protest which I rewrote for this dedication to Clarrie. I hope the Herald publishes the article again as a reminder of the betrayal to us all by the Lawerence government for re-developing the Old Swan Brewery.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Aboriginal Activist; Yekaritja - Clarrie Issacs; who passed away in his sleep last week. Yekaritja was devoted to protecting Nyoongar cultural heritage and almost 14 years after the dispute at the old Swan Brewery started, he continued to hold a one-man protest at the site every Tuesday morning.
For decades, a derelict building, the Old Swan Brewery, stood on what is still one of the most sacred Aboriginal heritage sites in the swan river region. The Noongar community wanted the building demolished and replaced with parkland which honored the resting place of their mighty ancestral spirit; The Wargyl.
The Noongar people had enormous support for their wishes by all sectors of the community but the powerful developer Multiplex had the support of then Premier; Carmen Lawerence and her (Old Buildings) Heritage Minister, Jim McGinty to redevelop the old building into prestigous apartments.
What unfolded was a shameful betrayal of Noongar people by Labour politicans who professed support for Indigenous rights, a disgraceful manipulation of parliamentary process to create legal loopholes to support the developers, and an arrogant disregard for the wishes of the majority of ordinary West Australians and thus our democratic principles.
When deciding a course of action on the brewery issue, the government chose to ignore:
The state government's principal advisor on Aboriginal heritage, the W.A. Museums Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee's recommendation against redevelopment because of the sites significance; The Supreme Court of W.A which ruled 3 times the Aboriginal site should be protected and the building should not be redeveloped(Colbung case; 1987,(Brophy cases; 11/90 & 12/90);
The High Court of Australia ruling that the Aboriginal Heritage Act protected sacred sites on crown land in the metropolitan area, such as the Swan Brewery site ( Brophy case, June 1990);
The WA National Trust twice (1986 and 1990) refused to classify the old Swan Brewery building as a (Anglo) heritage site because of difficulty determining its age and authenticity.
A majority vote in the Legilative Assembly of Parliament (28 to 26 votes) against redevelopment of the building which incidentally was the first defeat in eight years of government in parliament (16/5/1991)
An Aboriginal protest camp at the brewery site throughout the summer and winter of 1989;
That over 70 people were arrested in support of the Aboriginal protest;
A Westpoll survey which found that 79 percent of Western Australians opposed the redevelopment of the building (June 1992);
The Trades and Labour Council maintained a workban on the site in support of the Aboriginal protest (April 1989-June 92);
44 elected Aboriginal representatives (ATSIC regional councillors) from Perth, the wheatbelt, murchison, goldfields and south-west area joined the Swan Valley Noongars' call for the government to abandon the redevelopment plan (25/1/91)
The Social Justice commissions of the Anglican, Catholic and Uniting Churches who opposed redevelopment of the building.
In spite of the opinion of Aboriginal people, the courts, the parliament, the general public, the unions, the churches and state government advisors, Premier Lawerence maintained that the Swan Brewery redevelopment must proceed and that she was prepared to amend the Aboriginal Heritage Act to do so (23/10/91).
As it turned out, the government devised a back-door strategy to force commencement of the Swan Brewery development without having to wait for these amendments to be passed.
The (Old buildings) Heritage Minister, Fremantle M.L.A. Jim McGinty, put out a special edition of the Government Gazette under section 38 of the Heritage Act which excised the Swan Brewery precinct from any law, town council or metropolitan regional planning scheme, and the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
Whatever was left of the Aboriginal Heritage Act after Lawerence's amemdments could anyway be totally undermined by McGinty's (Old buildings) Heritage Act. Thus the legislation which was intended to uphold our state's recognition and respect for Aboriginal spirituality and heritge was virtually annulled.
Even the politicans undertaking that the Swan Brewery redevelopment would include an Aboriginal Art gallery and museum was a falsehood. The Multiplex developers and the wealthy tenants, with boats moored at their private jetty are laughing all the way to the bank . The goodwill, reconciliation and celebration that could have been shared by the whole community had the site been protected would have been historical, but alas the economic rationalist won again.
The Old Swan Brewery story reminds us that it's over-time for governments to listen to people like Clarrie Issacs, because the deep spirituality of this land should be respected by us all and duely protected. The Noongar people have encounted enough losses, it is time to give back. So if youv'e got some time on a Tuesday, why not go down and stand where Clarrie stood; outside the Swan Brewery, and raise your fist in solidarity and protest at this travesity of justice.

. CLARRIE . ISAACS . 27 11 2003 . R.C.B.

Lifelong brother, friend activist. Would I have believed that in February this year, when you drove Minnie & myself to Busselton for the Noongar Land & Sea Council meeting that you would go the way you have - peacefully in your sleep.
Our families grew up together in Perth, those were the days of Apartheid worse than South Africa - enforced Government Policy against the Indigenous people of Australia. Coolabaroo League Days - the only meeting place of Blacks & Whites socially, we were there as kids. The Soup Kitchen in Norbett St East Perth where Alan Bond visited us for a bowl of soup(he was a house painter in the area). From these experiences we became the so called Political Agitators/Activists. We were not afraid to be thrown in the "can".
Members of the Eureka Youth League a young Socialist organisation doing paste ups, usually at night, with our political statements all over Perth, on building sites, the higher we went the more challenging it got. One standing guard watching for police whilst the others with the glue tins.We were around 16yrs of age. May Day Marches and the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament - marching from Fremantle to Perth at Easter time, we walked all the way with our banners.
Then came protests we were there, Charlie Courts Mining Bill, where Mingli & myself draped the Aboriginal Flag over the Public Gallery in Parliament House Perth & then threw toilet rolls over the balcony - a non-violent protest! Land Rights Marches. Not only did you fight for Aboriginal people but also for the rights of Workers through the Union Movement.
In February you told me all of the names of people throughout the world who had supported you. I thank all of those people for their kindness and support, they know who they are. You put Aboriginal issues on the world agenda at the United Nations Forum in Geneva & other places. You sometimes had to change the rules as you did not have a Secretary & wanted to deliver speeches the Aboriginal way, straight from the head & heart & from your life experiences.
I left Perth to live in Broome 22yrs ago but we still maintained contact. I will treasure the hand painted in Aboriginal Colours peace banner you gave me this year. Yes it has been used and featured in the Koori Mail at an Anti-war rally in Broome against the Howard Government's involvement in Iraq, the banner is big & stood out. Must have taken a long time to paint & decorate - you were an artist, time didn't matter as long as the job was finished.
It is a bit frightening that at our age we have all of the diseases of elderly non-Indigenous people, diabetes, kidney problems, high cholesterol & blood pressure and heart disease. You were very ill but did not let this impede you in any way, you were a fighter to the end.
With the deepest of sympathy to all of Clarries family especially his children & grandchildren, he did worry about drugs & other modern issues facing children today
May his strength continue on in all of us.
Rest in Peace Bro.
Phillipa, Kylie, Samantha, Bianca, Simon Cook
Uncle Bill, Aunty Frances, Charles & Stanley Ward
Broome Western Australia.

On Saturday 22nd just days before his passing Yaluritja was the special guest speaker at a concert to honour the Ludlow Tuart Forest (proposed to be mined). He came with us, a large group of the organisers, speakers and performers to dinner and we all had a wonderful evening. Dr Chrissie Sharpe our Upper House Member for the South West Greens who had invited him, asked me if he could stay at my home that evening. My other guests were Geoff Evans (the leader of the Save Lake Jasper from mining campaign) and his partner Judy Linnett.
We all sat around the breakfast table on Sunday morning listening to precious stories, delightful memories and special events about this amazing friend's life. I shared how I used to collect money and take it up to the camp at the Brewery site years ago and how I was there with him as the council bought those big concrete barriers and placed them on the road. We had such a very special time, so engrossed in conversation that it was around 11-30 am when our special friend drove off to Perth.
My love and compassion go out to the family and all those that loved him and were close this amazing hero.
I feel extremely privileged indeed to have had the honour of spending some the last of remaining time with you Yaluritja, as I know are Geoff and Judy. I honour you.
Joan Jenkins, Bunbury

Goodbye Great Warrior
You were but passing by but what what an impact you made. You left your footprints firmly etched on Mother earth and she was so proud of you whilst you walked so gently with her. Long time ago in the Dreamtime when the world was soft. You were so tough and yet so soft and glorious in life with your friends and people who supported the struggle. You went outside boundaries that no one else dared. You will be remembered as the modern day WARRIOR. Rest now and may the Rainbow Serpent lift you up and ease your journey into the Spirit world.
With sadness in our hearts for your loss but rembering the jokes you shared to make us laugh into battle.
Mingli, Kathi, Hannah, Cameron McGlade family and friends.

Great Warrior Goodbye until we meet again.
Our hearts are hurting in our loss of your presence. You will always be fondly remembered for the great things you did for our peoples. May your Spirit rest in peace.
Sadly missed and forever cherished gone too early but the fight was well done...
Violet, Ayleen, Megan, Tara and family.

I met Clarrie here during the justice tour with Reihan Mohideen sponsored by Green Left Weekly in the late nineties. He was great guy and and a passionate advocate of the rights of his people. And he's 55! That tells us so much about how important his message still is. I have been reviewing Clarrie's story on the Green Left website -- as the search engine for Clarrie Isaacs carries heaps of material on the many campaigns he was involved in. Now as a member of the Sopcialist Alliance I am keen to say we will continue to fight for everything Clarrie Isaacs stood for in his life.
Dave Riley,Brisbane.

I was living up the north coast of NSW when Clarrie went around Australia on the Justice speaking tour, campaigning against Pauline Hanson. He wasn't due to come near where we lived so I rang around a few local activists and raised the money to fly him up by getting people to chip in $50 each.
Clarrie stayed at our place and, boy, couldn't he talk the leg off an iron pot! And network! He no sooner walked in the door than he was on the phone to local Aboriginal activists who he had met at conferences talking them into coming along to his talk.
His Byron Bay talk was very well received. I remember the weather was appalling and the people who came were the real stalwarts. But we got excellent coverage in the local press.
It was just one more instalment in his eventful life. A fascinating man who did an extraordinary number of things. It was wonderful meeting him.
Barry Healy