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Black and white portrait of a man. - click to view larger image
John Newfong

1943 to 1999

John Newfong, a descendant of the Ngugi people of Moreton Bay, Queensland, knew how to use the media effectively.

John's activism in Aboriginal affairs began in the Queensland Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (QCAATSI), where he coordinated the campaign for the 1967 Referendum in Queensland.

He completed a cadetship in journalism in the mid-1960s and worked for major dailies such as The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald as well as the weekly Bulletin. In 1972 he became editor of the year old Identity, published by the Aboriginal Publications Foundation Inc.

In 1970 John Newfong was elected General Secretary of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI), although he resigned after a few months over disagreements with other members of the executive.

He was active in organising the Cook bicentenary demonstration, pointing out that Indigenous Australians had nothing to celebrate. One of his significant contributions was as chief spokesman and media coordinator for the Aboriginal Embassy in 1972. He recognised the value of publicity both nationally and internationally in the Aboriginal cause.

John Newfong was a raconteur with a sharp wit, a broad general knowledge and an ability to write well. He used these skills to inspire younger Aboriginal people, to educate journalists and students of the media and to influence federal policy in areas as diverse as health and the arts.

Explore more on Collaborating for Indigenous Rights 1957–1973

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