National

Tributes for ex-NT minister John Ah Kit

By AAP Newswire

The Northern Territory's first Indigenous cabinet minister, John Ah Kit, is being remembered as a larger than life character and tireless advocate for First Nations people.

Mr Ah Kit died in Royal Darwin Hospital on Sunday, aged 69.

Just the ninth Indigenous parliamentarian in Australia, he was a popular MP and minister before retiring at the 2005 NT election.

His daughter, Ngaree Ah Kit - a Labor MP in the NT parliament - said her family was devastated but appreciated an outpouring of support.

"His achievements were many and we'll hear stories of these in the coming days and weeks," the statement read.

"But what we should all remember is that my Dad had a wonderful sense of humour."

Mr Ah Kit was born in Alice Springs on July 22, 1950.

He was elected to parliament in 1995 and became the NT's first Aboriginal cabinet minister in the Labor Government in 2001.

As director of the Northern Land Council, Mr Ah Kit campaigned for land rights for Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

He also successfully lobbied the Hawke Labor government to ban mining at Coronation Hill, a sacred site for the Jawoyn people in the Katherine region.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner described Mr Ah Kit as a giant and a fighter who had provided sage advice over the years.

"He was an incredibly smart person, he was incredibly wise," Mr Gunner told reporters.

"I saw him as a bit of a mentor. He could always talk you through an issue and he could see things coming that others might not necessarily see. He was just a remarkable person but his greatest legacy will live on in his family."

Federal Labor MPs Patrick Dodson and Warren Snowdon said Mr Ah Kit was a larger than life character with a wicked sense of humour.

"At his heart he was totally committed to his family and his belief in justice for First Nations people," they said in a joint statement.

"They have lost a tireless advocate, and he will be much missed.

"He was a great Australian."

Northern Territory Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy noted that Mr Ah Kit had battled health challenges in recent years.

"We thought we were going to lose him there a few times," Senator McCarthy told ABC radio.

"He still came out and fought it and surprised everyone happily and was just getting on with life, as far as many people knew ... it was a really sad moment last night to receive the news."