A didgeridoo player leads Linda Vidler’s funeral procession into the Byron Bay Surf Club last Friday.
A didgeridoo player leads Linda Vidler’s funeral procession into the Byron Bay Surf Club last Friday.

Arakwal elder leaves a lasting footprint

From very humble beginnings and through many hard times, Linda Vidler’s toughness and strength shone through to leave a lasting footprint on the Arakwal people of Byron Bay and the wider community.

Speaking at the Bundjalung Arakwal elder’s funeral at the Byron Bay Surf Club last Friday, son-in-law Gavin Brown told a crowd of more than 500 that Linda had a passion for Byron Bay and was a strong negotiator for indigenous people.

“For 15 years Linda was thrust into the public spotlight and into Aboriginal politics in her battle for gaining Native Title for her people and Indigenous Land Use Agreements,” he said.

“For many of these years she was battling ill health, but she carried on, and she shared the success of her people with the community.

“She was a matriarch of the Bundjalung.”

Mrs Vidler was born on August 13, 1938, one of 13 children. She lived in a camp at Ironbark Avenue in Byron Bay, where according to Mr Brown ‘there were very few opportunities for work, especially for Aboriginal people’.

He said the camp was a harsh environment to grow up in, but Linda had said those days were among her happiest.

“They lived off the land from the bush tucker and from catching fish and prawns,” Mr Brown said.

“Linda loved fishing, and her dogs, but she especially loved pork bones.”

Linda married Gordon Vidler, a fisherman, in 1957 and for a number of years they lived in his car at Tallow Creek.

The pair then moved to Brunswick Heads where Gordon obtained work as a deckhand on the trawlers.

They raised five children – Mick Kay, Yvonne Stewart, Danza Vidler, Delta Kay and Sean Kay.

Mr Brown said that Linda had been ‘mum’ to so many kids, not just her own.

Mr Brown said she had provided shelter for both black and white people and had helped to raise many nieces, nephews and two grandsons.

Family friend Adam McLean said Linda had changed the face of Byron Bay.

“She touched both black and white and even when she was not well, she was still fighting for her causes,” he said.

Son Sean said his mum had been his ‘rock’.

“She was my idol and my best friend and she always made sure that I had food, clothes and shelter,” he said.

“I was lost for some time, but mum pointed me in the right direction.”

Mrs Vidler was privately cremated and her ashes brought ‘back to the dolphins’ in the Bay.

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