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January 29, 2022

Labor backs plan to name sports field after Indigenous icon

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Bob Bellear, Australia’s first Indigenous judge to be appointed to the District Court of NSW grew up in Billinudgel.
Image of Bob’s portrait by Leo Fuller Quin supplied.

State Labor has publicly thrown its support behind a Byron Shire Council plan to officially name the new Ocean Shores sportsground in honour of Australia’s first indigenous judge, Robert (Bob) Bellear.

Mr Bellear was raised in Billinudgel and served as a judge from 1996 until his death in 2005. He was appointed to the bench by State Attorney-General Jeff Shaw in the Carr Government in 1996.

The plan has been supported by NSW Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord; Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs David Harris and State Labor candidate for Ballina Asren Pugh.

The plan was floated by Byron Council in August last year and officially published in the NSW Government Gazette on April 6.

Mr Bellear was one of nine children and the grandson of a Vanuatu sugar-cutter and an Aboriginal woman from Stradbroke Island in Queensland. In 1974, he started his law degree at the University of NSW and was admitted to the bar in 1979.

In 1987, he was appointed counsel assisting to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Shadow Minister for the North Coast, Walt Secord, described Bob Bellear as ‘a trail-blazer’.

‘He was the nation’s first indigenous judge and was the first Aboriginal person to rise to the level of petty officer in the navy. He was also a proud unionist and member of the Australian Labor Party.’

Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs David Harris said Mr Bellear had made ‘a significant contribution to indigenous rights. He was a mentor to young indigenous legal students and lawyers’.

‘The decision to rename the sports field is fitting as he was an accomplished rugby player – even representing Mullumbimby High School,’ he said.

Labor candidate for Ballina, Asren Pugh, said Mr Bellear was ‘proud of his North Coast connections and this is a fitting tribute to his memory.’

‘It is appropriate that he is recognised by his childhood community.’

Members of the public can send comments to: [email protected]


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  1. I wish to congratulate Brian Walker who initiated the process by writing an excellent application on behalf of Bob.Brian thoroughly researched Bob!s legal and sporting background. He discovered that Mullumbimby High Scool have a considerable collection of photographs featuring Bob and fellow team mates. Bob continued to play sport and coach teams after he left school. Brian and Bob were great mates. They grew up together in Billinudgel and joined the navy together. Bob went on to study law and embark on an outstanding legal carrier. Although a protracted process it is exciting to know that his sporting achievements are now receiving due recognition thanks primarily to Brian. There can be no better inspiration for our youth than the life of Bob Belair.


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