Adnyamathanha elder Charlie Jackson, of Port Augusta, has paid tribute to his late friend Ian Kowalick who was a major influence to increase Aboriginal employment in the mining sector and helped start Aboriginal-owned businesses.
Mr Kowalick, who died recently, had a versatile career in which his skillset expanded across science, engineering, economics and finance as well as being a whistleblower on the State Bank crisis of the 1980s..
He was the director of mining giant NuPower, chairman of Playford Capital, chairman of the Adelaide University finance, deputy chairman of the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust and, most important, a strong advocate and a voice for Aboriginal people for the past 30 years.
Back in the 1990s, elder Mr Jackson met with many federal and state politicians to talk to them about corruption and fraud taking place within Aboriginal organisations across the country.
He said he was always met with the same response from politicians - that it was an Aboriginal problem and there was nothing they could do about it, although Mr Kowalick and his business partner Paul Keath listened to the issues and vowed to help.
"Unlike some other leaders, he Ian offered his support to the Aboriginal Reform Group that I started with my old friend Paul Keath four years ago, to do something about these problems," Mr Jackson said.
"We had many, many meetings with Ian at Paul's Willunga home and we put together one of the best teams in Australia to deal with these serious problems in Aboriginal corporations.
"We played a leading role in a campaign for a parliamentary inquiry into Aboriginal corporations and we seek an early report of this state inquiry.
"We hope that they will accept my submission's recommendation for an Independent Office for Accountability in Aboriginal Affairs.
"None of this would have been possible without Ian and his ongoing guidance and moral support.
"Even towards the end when he was very, very ill, he would nevertheless still turn up to meetings with myself with lawyers and others and I will always be enormously grateful to him for the commitment, the guidance and the support he showed.
"His involvement and support were very important and we would never have made the progress we have without him.
"Ian was also a strong advocate for the development of a legitimate Aboriginal economy, independent of, but complementary to, the prevailing government and public service-based model."
An Independent Aboriginal Enterprise Institute is being established by a group of retired minerals industry identities and it will be named the Kowalick Institute for Aboriginal Enterprise in his honour.