It was a very sad day yesterday when several hundred people attended the Catholic church at Walgett to pay last respects to Don Lillyman, without doubt one of the finest men I have ever known and whose passing comes as a tragic loss for the Walgett community.
Don's nominal role as Promotions Manager did not do justice to the range and scope of the activities he undertook - Don was a central figure in many community activities and one of the few people able to build and maintain strong bridges amongst the various groups that make up the town. His contribution to Aboriginal culture and heritage is reflected in the large amount of Indigenous art offered at the café. Don co authored a dictionary, recognised as the finest contribution to Aboriginal language, that helps keep 2 dialects alive.
His encouragement to use local knowledge and culture as a path to success meant many people have also been able to achieve personal success.
Don used a wheelchair but he had no disability in my eyes. Don didn't see colour or race, had friends amongst young and old and helped many others labelled as disabled to share in his vision for an integrated and thriving town.
Last year Café 64 was the nations "Champion Small Business". I got to hold up the trophy and say a few words (the stage didn't have wheelchair access and Don was never one to seek the spotlight) but this was Don's award and a symbol of the recognition he should receive for a tremendous life.
Don sent a picture from his hospital bed and there's no doubt that he knew his time was short. His words sent with the picture were: 'tell everyone to keep the Café going".
We will all miss Don's spirit, good nature and humour - I know I do.
My condolences to his mum and dad, to his children and grandchildren.
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