A new inner-city pedestrian bridge, to be built as part of the Queen’s Wharf project, will be named after Australia’s first Indigenous parliamentarian, Neville Bonner.

Bonner was appointed to the Australian Senate, representing the Liberal Party, in 1971. He was inititally appointed to fill a casual vacancy, but later became the first Indigenous Australian to be elected by popular vote, and remained in the Senate until 1983.

In 1979, he was named the Australian of the Year. In 1999, the Neville Bonner Building in William Street was named in his honour after his passing earlier that year.

The Neville Bonner Bridge will essentially replace the Neville Bonner Building, which will close on 31 December after staff relocate to 1 William Street in October. The building will then be demolished in the New Year to make way for Queen’s Wharf.

The new bridge will be part of the $3 billion Queen’s Wharf development.

State Development Minister Dr Anthony Lynham announced the naming of the Neville Bonner Bridge at a ceremony at the Neville Bonner Building with members of Bonner’s family, including his son, Alfred ‘Tiny’ Bonner, in attendance.

“Naming the new bridge after Senator Bonner acknowledges a great life of service to Queensland and Australia, and symbolically links cultures,” Dr Lynham said.

“We thank Tiny and the Bonner family for allowing us to name the bridge in honour of their late father, grandfather and uncle.”

Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Curtis Pitt said Bonner’s appointment was a turning point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

“As Australia’s first Aboriginal person in Federal Parliament, Senator Bonner worked to ensure Aboriginal people retained their cultural identity, while acquiring the economic, educational and social opportunities that non-Indigenous Australians took for granted,” he said.

“As a Senator for our state he represented all Queenslanders but should also be remembered for the contribution he made to increasing understanding in our community of the rich cultural heritage of Aboriginal people.

“The Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships plans on keeping the legacy alive and has secured arrangements to ensure key sculptures and artworks displayed at the Neville Bonner building are relocated to highly visible locations.

“The Neville Bonner Bust — a larger than life bronze sculpture — will be displayed at Queensland’s Parliament House while the well-known stainless steel chain mesh construction on the outside of the building, The Net, will be transferred and put on display at the new 1 William Street building.”

The area where the Neville Bonner Building is currently located will, in part, be transformed into public realm space and an Indigenous way and mangrove walk.