Editor’s note: While the family has given permission to publish his name, traditional protocol would have us refer to him as Waal Waal Martin. For this story, we will show our respect to the Wik custom by not mentioning his first name. We thank those grieving family members for taking the time to talk to us …
WHENEVER he was in Aurukun, Waal Waal Martin was constantly surrounded by children.
“I believe he was like a Peter Pan,” said his sister Keri Tamwoy, the town’s mayor.
“He was still a child at heart and I don’t think he really grew up.
“He connected to kids on their level; he was this fun uncle, fun older brother that would always take a child, wrap them up in his arms and do fun things with them or just sit down with them and be in their presence.
“Kids were basically drawn to him.”
Keri said while the family was grieving, it was Waal Waal’s nieces and nephews who were hurting the most.
“We were talking about pallbearers for the funeral and my sister asked one of his nephews and he couldn’t answer … it was too much for him,” she said.
While Keri and Waal Waal don’t share the same parents, they still called each other brother and sister, as is custom in their culture.
“His mum, mumma Dorothy is a sister-cousin to my mother. We have this close relationship and we don’t say cousins, we say ‘that’s my brother or that’s my sister’,” Keri explained.
“He’d come home for school holidays, of course, and for cultural purposes like funerals and house openings.
“One of the homes he would come back to and stay at was my mum’s home. I’m nine years older than him but we were close.
“He understood the importance of coming home and just being immersed in culture and Wik traditions. We wanted him to know that even though he lived in the big smoke, this is your home, these are your people, this is your family.”
Keri said he was always putting a smile on the faces of those around him.
“I don’t want to say he was shy when he was little but as he got older and into his teens he was such a prankster, always cracking jokes and making fun,” she said.
The mayor said the community was expecting another big funeral this Friday after a prolonged period of Sorry Business in Aurukun.
“I’m guessing that it’s going to be really big,” she said.
“The sisters and I have sat down and planned the funeral.
“Mum can’t make any decisions which is our culture … part of our customs.
“Mum can say something but the sisters are responsible for the planning.”
Keri said Dorothy was doing her best in tough times.
“She is trying to stay strong for us and we’re all here for her,” she said.
“That’s her baby. She’s very heartbroken.
“She loved him very, very much, especially being her last child.
“She always held him in such high regard and he was the kind of son that would practically do anything for his mum.”
Keri said her brother would now be with his Elders.
“Our people believe that when we pass away we go to be with our ancestors,” she said.
“We go back to our homeland or just mingle around. We don’t go away. I think he’s with our ancestors now.”
She said Waal Waal’s legacy in Aurukun would be APN Cape York, which he founded, and his son, Thiikel-ee’enh Wilfred Martin.
“I’m aunty to baby Wilfy and we will always have a duty of care towards him,” Keri said.
“This tiny human will constantly remind us of our brother and it will be our duty to keep our brother’s memory alive for his son.”
Mayor Keri also thanked those who had passed on messages of condolences to the family.