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WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following may contain images, story and voices of deceased, by and about persons. Discretion advised.

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Sam Watson

7 July 2020 // Sam Watson


Samuel William Watson (16 November 1952 – 27 November 2019)A proud Wangerriburra and Birri Gubba man, he was a leading Murri activist based in Brisbane, Watson was a veteran of Indigenous rights struggles going back to the 1960s. Sam was also prominent author, academic, playwright and filmmaker, Watson was also the Socialist Alliance’s (SA) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs spokesperson for many years.


Sam became active at the age of 16, handing out how-to-vote cards for the “Yes” campaign in the 1967 referendum on constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people.

He was a founding member of the Brisbane chapter of the Australian Black Panthers. "He proudly belonged to the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy" in Canberra from its establishment in 1972.

Throughout the 1970s, Sam worked with Elders to establish Aboriginal community organisations and peak bodies in health, housing, education, employment and legal aid. He was an important figure in the Brisbane Aboriginal Legal Service in the 1990s.

Through his work with the Brisbane Aboriginal Legal Service in the 1990s, Mr Watson played a vital role in implementing the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

In 2009, he was appointed Deputy Director at the University of Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, where he taught courses in Black Australian literature.

As an author and screenwriter, Mr Watson was named National Indigenous Writer of the Year in 1991 for his novel The Kadaitcha Sung. He wrote and co-produced the 1994 film Black Man Down that was screened to global audiences as part of the Sand to Celluloid collection of Indigenous short films. He also moved into theatre, his play workshopped by Yirra Yaakin theatre and performed by Kooemba Djarra.

Sam always saw the necessity to unite the struggles of Indigenous people with the movements of working people and the oppressed. He loved his community and Aboriginal people so deeply, he was a tireless in his dedication. Sam stands as a giant of the Australian Aboriginal struggle and of the broader fight for a just, cooperative society free of racial oppression.

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