Mullenjaiwakka (1939-2019)

Mon Apr 08 2019

Mullenjaiwakka, the first Aboriginal man to practise at the New South Wales Bar and to represent Australia in test rugby, has died.

Also known by the name Lloyd Clive McDermott, he was born in November 1939 in Eidevold, Queensland. He was educated at Brisbane's Church of England Grammar School. As a student of law at Queensland University, his prowess on the rugby field soon became apparent and won him great respect. He debuted for the Wallabies against the All Blacks in May 1962. Mullenjaiwakka played one more test for Australia before he famously refused to join the 1963 tour of South Africa as a "token white". This principled stance against Apartheid influenced several of his white team mates, who refused to play against the Springboks during their subsequent tour of Australia.

Mullenjaiwakka's passion for rugby never really dimmed. He was patron of the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team Inc. (later the Lloyd McDermott Foundation), which sought to give Aboriginal people a sense of belonging and identity through sporting achievements. The foundation enjoyed considerable support from the legal profession and success on the field. In 2001 it supported the first all-Aboriginal rugby union team to tour the new South Africa.

Mullenjaiwakka was called to the New South Wales Bar in June 1972. He appeared in a number of cases that were dear to his heart. He was junior counsel to the late Honourable Jeff Shaw QC, then attorney general of NSW, in the first determination of native title in NSW (Buck v Minister for Land and Water Conservation). He was, for many years, a trustee of the Bar Association's Indigenous Barristers Trust - The Mum Shirl Fund. In 2006 he was given the honour of opening the first National Indigenous Legal Conference, at which time he remarked on the contrast with when he was the only Aboriginal student at law school. He served as the chairperson of the NSW Aboriginal Justice Advisory Committee. In 2016 he was appointed to the Mental Health Review Tribunal having also served as an acting District Court judge and a part-time commissioner of the Land and Environment Court of NSW.

Bar Association President Tim Game SC said the legal profession will mourn his passing.

Members will be advised of funeral arrangements as soon as they are known.

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