QSAC First Nations chair and revered Wakka Wakka Elder passes away

The Queensland Government and agencies have honoured the dedicated commitment and hard work of revered Wakka Wakka Elder and the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander chair who passed away yesterday.

Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council announced the passing of 65-year-old Uncle Bevan Costello from a suspected heart attack.

A statement released by the council said: “Uncle Bevan was a proud Wakka Wakka man, respected Elder, mentor and champion, his voice heard far and wide – a tragic loss for us all.”

“His tireless devotion and dedication to our community cannot be understated.

“Our sincerest condolences and sympathy are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time.”

A champion for his community, Uncle Bevan was well known throughout the South Burnett region, 250km north-west of Brisbane, for trying to create positive change in his town.

Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Shannon Fentiman, in a statement late yesterday, paid tribute to the highly respected Elder and community leader, and acknowledged his tireless efforts as a senior QSAC member.

“Mr Costello worked at QSAC as the chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council and was one of 12 independent members appointed to the Council,” Ms Fentiman said.

“As a proud Wakka Wakka man and Elder within the Cherbourg community, along with his extensive experience in the education industry, Mr Costello brought to the council a unique insight into cultural and Indigenous history aspects of sentencing.

“He was also a passionate advocate for his local community and worked tirelessly to help promote positive change in Cherbourg and the surrounding area.

“Mr Costello was a highly admired leader, Elder and traditional owner and will be greatly missed.”

Bevan Costello

He also sat on the local Murri Court, helping magistrates understand the lives and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people coming before the court.

Mr Costello was also a founding member of the Ration Shed Museum, represented Queensland in Rugby League and served two terms as a local government councillor for Cherbourg.

QSAC also honoured Mr Bevan as “valued member” of QSAC since June 2018.

“Mr Costello was instrumental in establishing the organisation’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, of which he was the Chair,” a QSAC statement said.

“Mr Costello’s contribution to the Sentencing Advisory Council’s work was important in assisting the council to build a stronger understanding of the implications of sentencing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and better understand the drivers of the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland’s criminal justice system.

“Mr Costello’s influence on the council’s work extended across more than three years and more recently was seen in the research publication ‘Connecting the dots: the sentencing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Queensland’, in which he encouraged the inclusion of insights and reflections of members of the council’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Panel, lending a personal context to the statistics and giving a greater understanding of why the report findings are significant.

“He was also passionate about explaining in easy-to-understand language, sentencing terms and concepts, and regularly participated in and was active in the development and production of numerous videos that communicated complex legal information in plain English.

“Mr Costello recognised through the council an opportunity to promote and support broader sentencing commentary in Queensland. He took this role seriously, often participating in public discussions and media interviews across Queensland about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over-representation in the criminal justice system.

“Mr Costello will be sadly missed by everyone.”

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