QUEENSLAND's political sphere is mourning the loss of a "great leader" and an "inspiring" man who helped narrow the gap between indigenous communities and the rest of the state.
Eric Deeral, the first indigenous politician in Queensland Parliament and a pioneer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights under the rein of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, died aged 80 in his hometown of Hope Vale on Wednesday.
Mr Deeral was the member for Cook between 1974 and 1977 and continued to advocate for indigenous land rights, justice and improved living standards when he left parliament.
Premier Campbell Newman paid tribute to an "an early leader who had a positive influence on many of today's indigenous leaders".
"He was a leader at a time when his people needed leadership to overcome decades of discrimination and deprivation directed towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people," he said.
"Mr Deeral will be sadly missed and the contribution he made to his people and the Queensland Parliament long remembered."
Earlier this year, Queensland Parliamentary Speaker and Maroochydore MP Fiona Simpson announced the Government would name the youth indigenous parliament in Mr Deeral's honour.
Upon hearing of Mr Deeral's death, Ms Simpson said the former Cook MP served with distinction during and after his time in parliament.
"He represented all his constituents, while also providing a uniquely indigenous perspective," she said.
During a visit to Queensland Parliament in June, Mr Deeral reflected on the progress of indigenous recognition over the past 40 years.
"This morning, coming into this building, sent my mind back to what it was like then and that we were not recognised in our own country," he said.
"The laws were different, but today, because we worked together, we have achieved that.
"Young people today with the opportunities available can continue to achieve what we have supported and what we aim for."
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