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Bonner, Heather (?–2004)

Heather Bonner, the political activist wife of Australia's first Aboriginal federal parliamentarian Neville Bonner, has died aged 81.

Mrs Bonner, from Ipswich west of Brisbane, played a major role in the political career of her husband, who passed away in 1999 aged 76.

She was a staunch advocate for Mr Bonner's Jagera Aboriginal people and supported their native title claim on a 6,000 square kilometre area from Moreton Bay to the Toowoomba Range.

Mrs Bonner married an American soldier after World War II and lived in the United States, where she had three children.

Her husband died in the 1950s and she returned to Queensland, later becoming a supporter of Aboriginal rights group the One People of Australia League (OPAL).

It was through OPAL that she met and became friends with Neville Bonner, who was the group's Queensland president.

They married in 1972 — a year after he started an 11-year stint as a Liberal senator for Queensland.

Mrs Bonner's daughter Shay Ryan said her mother was a great political strategist and lobbyist.

Ms Ryan said her mother had shown tremendous interest recently in the federal election battle for the new Brisbane seat of Bonner, named after her husband.

"She was an incredible woman and my stepdad became her career," Ms Ryan told the Queensland Times newspaper.

Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy Minister Liddy Clark said Mrs Bonner had been a great advocate for Aborigines.

"Heather strongly supported her husband, Australia's first Aboriginal senator Neville Bonner, but was also a tireless worker in her own right," she said in a statement.

Mrs Bonner, who died last Thursday after a long battle with emphysema, will be buried alongside her husband on Tuesday at Warrill Park Cemetery in Ipswich after a funeral service at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church.

Original publication

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October 2004

Citation details

'Bonner, Heather (?–2004)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bonner-heather-28099/text35814, accessed 19 November 2019.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2019

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Ryan, Heather
  • Trotter, Heather
Death

October 2004

Cause of Death

emphysema