Abbott, Newman join Aussie tributes for Nelson Mandela

AUSTRALIANS have been devastated by the loss of Nelson Mandela, affectionately known by his clan name "Madiba", after this death was announced by South African president Jacob Zuma this morning.

Politicians, community leaders and citizens are sharing pictures and tales of the time they saw, met or were inspired by Mr Mandela, whose life-long struggle against racial injustice led to him being sentenced to life imprisonment after being charged with "conspiracy to overthrow the government" in 1962.

After serving 27 years, Madiba was released in 1990, making international headlines.

He cemented his position as an icon for South Africa when, less than two weeks after being given freedom, he addressed a crowd of 100,000 in Johannesburg.

Just three years later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1994 became South Africa's first president.

Although half a world away, Australians helped lead the struggle against South Africa's repressive regime of apartheid, with major national campaigns first run in the 1960s.

The ferocity of this fight exploded in 1971 during the South African Rugby Tour of Australian when student movements, trade unions and church groups led enormous protests in Brisbane.

Queensland Premier at the time Joh Bjelke-Petersen declared a month-long state of emergency at the time.

Following word of Mr Mandela's death on Friday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said "the world mourns" after hearing the news.

"Nelson Mandela will forever be remembered as more than a political leader, he was a moral leader," Mr Abbott said.

"While the world may never see another Nelson Mandela, he has inspired countless men and women throughout the world to live more courageous and honest lives.

"On behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian community, I extend my condolences to Mr Mandela's family and to the people of South Africa."

In a joint statement, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and shadow foreign minister Tanya Plibersek described Mr Mandela as "a true leader".

"In fractious and troubled times, Mandela led his nation out of the dark age of apartheid - not with a violent struggle, but with peace, compassion and a force of moral leadership.

"Mandela knew his country could never be healed with violence or vengeance. He suffered so his people could be free.

"Mandela was a true leader, a statesman, and the defining symbol of reconciliation."

A growing number of South Africans are now holding a vigil for their lost leader outside Mr Mandela's Johannesburg home.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation published a tribute to Mr Mandela from anti-apartheid veteran and Mr Mandela's colleague Ahmed Kathrada.

"While we may be drowned in sorrow and grief, we must be proud and grateful that after the long walk paved with obstacles and suffering, we salute you as a fighter for freedom to the end," he wrote.

"Farewell my elder brother, my mentor, my leader.

"With all the energy and determination at our command, we pledge to join the people of South Africa and the world to perpetuate the ideals and values for which you have devoted your life."

Flags to fly at half mast on Queensland's buildings for funeral

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman also praised the South African leader.

"We are united in grief as we are united in gratitude, for the life and the leadership of Nelson Mandela.

"More than 35,000 South Africans now call Queensland home. I know they will, as will all Queenslanders, be saddened by this news, but incredibly proud of what Nelson Mandela achieved throughout his life.