Rodney Junga-Williams, a passionate advocate for indigenous Australians living with HIV, died in Sydney on 24 November 2011.
Rodney was a proud Aboriginal man of the Narrunga and Kaurna Nations of the Yorke Peninsula and Adelaide and the Adelaide Plains.
A leading activist, he served as a long-term Aboriginal spokesman for NAPWHA. Through the early years of the HIV epidemic, he forged NAPWHA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy, advocacy and prevention responses, speaking publicly and proudly at forums both nationally and internationally while advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples.
In 1994 he was the HIV positive representative of a dedicated group which coordinated the first Anwernekenhe conference for gay men and sistergirls at Hamilton Downs in Alice Springs.
He was the first Aboriginal Australian to come out publicly as HIV positive, and became the first Aboriginal president of People Living With HIV/AIDS South Australia in 1999.
At the 2005 NAPWHA Biennial Conference in Adelaide: ‘Our place, your place … in the bigger picture’, Rodney provided the first ‘welcome to country’ by a traditional owner who was openly HIV positive.
An elder of the Kaurna people of Adelaide, he used the occasion to draw together a moving comparison of what may serve to be the passions of his life, the experience of indigenous people and the experience of people living with HIV.
“We are all wounded warriors,” he told the crowd. “And in some way, you are all warriors as well.”
As a passionate advocate and community leader, Rodney Junga-Williams will be remembered for his courage and his dedication to human rights and equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and for all people living with HIV.