Culture and country high on the agenda at Leeton

“When I was growing up you sat on the ground and you drank Sunshine milk in your tea and you talked with your aunts all the older people and your grandmother and you got told things but the children today don’t always have that opportunity.”

While that’s a familiar story to many, Karen Davy a Wiradjuri woman and CEO of the Leeton and District LALC says making sure stories don’t get lost is high on the agenda in her community.

“We had a cultural day recently on the Murrumbidgee (River), and lots of community came along. We talked about identity and culture and told tories, did traditional cooking, dance. People were able to give their kids those kinds of opportunities and experiences they had as children,” she says.

“We’re trying to protect culture not just because it’s our future but also it’s a legislative responsibility for us at the Land Council.”

It’s no surprise then, that when Leeton TAFE contacted the LALC about possible joint projects, recording history and stories was highlighted as a priority. But what started as an oral history project finished up as an award winning film called ‘From the Edge.’

Through reenactments based on real stories of some local families, the film showed how the Aboriginal community had lived and worked in the agricultural industries in the Riverina for a long time, and contributed to the broader community.

“The film was an amazing engagement with the broader community but also really great learning experience for our mob who were involved,” says Karen Davy.

“It was about respecting those who came before us and acknowledging the responsibility to those who come after us. “

Culture is still strong and alive in Leeton and nearby is Koonadan Aboriginal Place, a recognised and protected historic site. A burial and ceremonial site it was also used for hunting and food gathering.

Like many LALCs, Leeton and District has an income stream which helps fund operations. The LALC-owned Town Centre Motel is being run by leaseholders, and the sale of two properties as part of land claims also has contributed financially.

The LALC also coordinates community service visits to Leeton including from organisations like the Griffith AMS, Rivmed, Murrumbidgee Medicare Local, and other dental, medical and social services.

And like many land councils they need more young people to be involved.

“We have a huge responsibility towards our youth so they have opportunities to get involved and see good things happening and that their opinion counts. We are looking to continue our activities like more cultural days, NAIDOC and other positive happening through the LALC,” she said.

Courtney Davy who works at the LALC and is also a third-generation member agrees. “There’s interest but we need to do more work,” she says.

“I think a good idea would be if there could be a youth meeting going on during something like the Statewide conference, getting young people involved and learning while all those CEOs and Chairs and staff are around.

“I would encourage all young people to join their LALCs, become a member, be involved in your community.

“You know, it’s not what your land council can do for you but what you can do for your land council, your community and your culture. Being involved is keeping land rights alive, as past generations have fought really hard and it’s up to us to keep it continuing.”