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Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Lindsay Joseph Croft (1967–1994)

by Shirley Campbell

It was Karaoke night at the National Aboriginal Higher Education conference held in Jamberoo Valley from 9-13 December 1991. Throughout dinner Lindsay worked continuously on persuading Susan Beaudin, a guest speaker to the conference from the Canadian First Nation, to join him in a "song". Anyone who has experienced Lindsay's persuasive style could guess what the outcome would be. Not only did he persuade her to join him in a song but he managed to get them placed as the first "singers" of the night to perform. With an ability to carry a tune only fit to be heard by the winds, Lindsay's performance of You've Lost That Loving Feeling will be remembered by all who were there. With the final solo, Lindsay dramatically fell down to the ground, microphone in hand, and sobbed out the words "you've lost that lovin' feeling". The next morning Lindsay delivered a serious and no less persuasive paper on the value of establishing a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Union. His performance the evening before had ensured that he would at least be listened to and in the end receive support for his proposition from those working in Aboriginal higher education around the nation. Lindsay had made an impression; something that Lindsay did wherever he went.

In celebrating his life at a memorial service that marked the end of his life, the extent to which Lindsay had made an impression on a huge range of individuals and organisations was apparent and demonstrated the breadth of his accomplishments in his short 27 years. Letters from senior politicians and public servants were read at the service acknowledging the tremendous loss to the Australian community of such an ambassador for justice and reconciliation. The Prime Minister, the Honourable Mr Keating, the Leader of the Opposition, the Honourable Mr Downer, the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, the Honourable Mr Tickner, Ms Lois O'Donoghue and Mr Charlie Perkins, Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson respectively of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, all noted the tragic loss not only to Lindsay's family and friends but to the nation, echoing the sentiments of many individuals with whom I have spoken since hearing the news. Indeed, this was not a sentiment arising from Lindsay's death. During his life, it was not out of the ordinary for acquaintances of Lindsay to comment on his future as a public personality in Australian politics. Lindsay was going places.

Lindsay was anything but idle. He lived in a whirlwind of activity. There was just too much to accomplish. Lindsay had a plan which would put him into a position in the public arena to make a difference. Broadly, he was an avid campaigner for justice and reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. In some capacity, Lindsay was determined to contribute to this process, not in a small way, but in the biggest way possible. Lindsay's plan took him along many different paths, each one designed to put him into a position where he could achieve his goal. A few of the most notable accomplishments over his last four years included: a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Canberra; a Graduate Diploma in Public Policy from the Australian National University; President of the ANU Indigenous Cultural Society; National Convener for the Aboriginal Working Party, National Union of Students; Member of the ACT Chief Minister's Youth Advisory Council; Member of the National Advisory Council on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; Vice President of the Canberra Council for International Students; President of the Student Association; National Co-Secretary of Student Initiatives in Community Health Management Committee and Member of the Ethics Committee with the Australian Institute of Health.

Chief Minister, Ms Rosemary Follett, MLA, reminded those present at the memorial service that during the past 24 months Lindsay had been involved in over 30 different committees. In 1993 Lindsay was awarded a Harkness Fellowship to undertake postgraduate research at Harvard University in the USA. His research was towards a Masters degree in Public Health. During his brief time at Harvard, Lindsay had managed to organise a conference, was a member of numerous committees and was involved in several Native American organisations. His last great achievement was to secure an internship with the United Nations.

Lindsay was calculating in deciding which paths to take so as to achieve his ultimate goals and finally realise his plan for a future Australia. He was not ruthless in his method, instead exploring carefully the potential opportunities each path might lead him to and deciding which direction to take. Lindsay was determined that in the end, the Australia that he left his children would be a society that welcomed diversity through tolerance and understanding. He was determined that he would be a part of the process towards that Australia. Lindsay recognised that opportunities were there for the taking, and if they weren't, Lindsay would create them. He was an unfailing optimist. He was not naive to the injustices that surrounded him, nor of the ignorance that continues to feed racist attitudes, but he believed that a more forgiving Australia could be achieved as long as individuals kept working towards an understanding and respect for each other.

Recollections of Lindsay by those who knew him in the differing contexts of his life's work continue to reflect Lindsay as a committed young man with a mission, a man who with great diplomacy was able to create the opportunities that he saw were part of his plan for making a difference to the Australian community, a man with an infectious ready-go attitude towards life that ensured that he would go forward and aim high in life to achieve his goals, a man whose ambitions met an untimely halt, a born leader who, in the end, did not get the opportunity to lead us towards a more just Australia.

Always identifying opportunities, Lindsay and his wife, Rebecca, took out life insurance before setting out for the US. Lindsay spoke to her of the difficulties faced by indigenous students accessing tertiary education. They decided that if anything should happen to him, the life insurance should go towards establishing a scholarship fund to assist other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students in their efforts towards a tertiary education. The Lindsay Joseph Croft Scholarship Fund will go towards making the difference that Lindsay wanted.

Original publication

Citation details

Shirley Campbell, 'Croft, Lindsay Joseph (1967–1994)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 April 2024.

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