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Tributes flow for Stolen Generations' hero

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 5 April 2005

Indigenous leaders have paid tribute to the man at the centre of a landmark compensation test case that internationally highlighted the plight of the Stolen Generations.

Mr Gunner, whose first name cannot be mentioned for cultural reasons, died at his central Australian community of Utopia at the weekend. He was 56 years old.

Mr Gunner and Lorna Cubillo alleged they were taken from their communities by government authorities against their wills in 1956 and 1947.

They lodged claims in the Federal Court against the Federal Government in 1996 as a test case for the Stolen Generations.

While the claim was dismissed by the High Court six years later, friend and Stolen Generations member Harold Furber says it highlighted the horrors they experienced.

"Mr Gunner was seen as a hero by the Stolen Generations people because of his determination," Mr Furber said.

"Through his work in the Stolen Generations many young people now...have become more aware of it and they're not only becoming aware of it, but also are prepared to talk...about it - 10 years ago it was a hush hush, you didn't talk about it, it was a taboo subject.

"Whilst it might have been lost, it might have lost legally, I believe it was a moral victory - it gave the message across Australia and internationally that there were people here badly mistreated [and] taken away from their families."

The Central Land Council says Mr Gunner also provided leadership through his commitment to Aboriginal self-governance.

The council has issued a statement expressing its deep sorrow over the death of Mr Gunner.

Director David Ross says Mr Gunner was a man of profound courage who sought justice for the Stolen Generations.

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