Yami Lester: More than 500 people travel to South Australia's far north for leader's funeral

Yami Lester: More than 500 people travel to South Australia's far north for leader's funeral

Yami Lester: More than 500 people travel to South Australia's far north for leader's funeral

Updated 8 August 2017, 21:55 AEST

Aboriginal elder, activist and leader, Yami Lester, is laid to rest on the red soil of his homeland in front of hundreds of loved ones in South Australia's far north.

Aboriginal elder, activist and leader, Yami Lester, has been laid to rest on the red soil of his homeland in front of hundreds of loved ones.

In what could be one of the most remote state funerals, more than 500 people travelled to Walatina Station in South Australia's far north to say a final farewell.

Lester was described during the emotional service as a proud Yankunytjatjara man who lived a life filled with not only achievement but also hardship and courage.

Anti-nuclear campaigner Dave Sweeney said many non-Indigenous people turned to the story of Yami Lester for hope.

"We owe him a great debt because he faced adversity with understated courage, with humility, with humour, with great strength," he said.

The service heard stories of Mr Lester as a stockman who worked on the land in SA's far north before he lost his sight.

It was here in the APY Lands that he was blinded by what he called the "black mist" from a nuclear bomb test at Maralinga conducted in the 1950s.

"In a world without nuclear threats and risks, Mr Lester would have been a great stockman," Mr Sweeney said.

"In a world with nuclear threats and risks, he would crack his whip loud, hard, sharp and constant, to sound a different alarm."

Fighting for those affected by nuclear testing

Mr Lester made it his life's work to fight for people affected by nuclear testing and campaign for Indigenous land rights.

He was a leader in the push for the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia, which resulted in a clean-up of the testing ground and compensation for the Maralinga Tjarutja people.

He was also pivotal in the hand-back of Uluru to its traditional Aboriginal owners and his work led him to receive an Order of Australia medal.

Karina Lester started the service with a small poem for her father.

"Y is for youthful at heart, A is for amazing, M is for Magic and I is for inspirational," she said.

"He shared around tables, whether it was land rights, whether it was negotiations, the hand-back of Uluru.

"He really knew how to bring our message, our Anangu message, to the wider community."

Ms Lester told the crowd she took her father's story to a United Nations conference in New York recently to ban nuclear weapons.

"Many people from all over the world were there at the United Nations and many knew of Dad's story," she said.

"That was certainly something I was very touched by and also humbled to know that many listened to that story.

"I will certainly take the leadership that he showed us on."

Politicians pay tribute

Among those paying tribute were Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion and Labor MP Warren Snowden, who has been friends with Mr Lester for 40 years.

Australian singer Paul Kelly, who was inspired by Mr Lester to write a song about Maralinga in the 1980s, also attended.

South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said Mr Lester left behind a strong legacy and inspired many people.

"It's a test to this man's leadership that so many people travelled so far to be here to celebrate his extraordinary life," he said.

"This is his birthplace and it's fitting that we've come here for his final resting place."

The SA Government is discussing with Mr Lester's family an appropriate memorial to recognise his contribution to the state.