Inaugural ‘Welcome to Country’ signals new way forward

Inaugural 'Welcome to Country' signals new way forward

 

February 18, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A tradition has to start somewhere, and this morning the NSW Aboriginal Land Council began one of its own.

At the first sitting of the Governing Council for the 2014 year, the custodians of the Local Aboriginal Land Council boundary in which the NSWALC head office sits - the Deerubbin LALC - performed a 'Welcome to Country'.

Chairman of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council Craig Cromelin said he hoped the ceremony would become a tradition.

"I think sometimes in the past we've failed to grasp those opportunities to sit down and have a yarn with our Local Aboriginal Land Councils, for no other reason than simple respect," Chairman Cromelin said.

"So I hope that this will become a tradition that endures for many years to come."

Deputy Chairman and Councillor for the Sydney/Newcastle region Roy Ah-See introduced the Chief Executive Officer of the Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council, Kevin Cavanagh, noting that a 'Welcome to Country' for NSWALC was overdue, and an important way forward.

"What this ceremony says to me, is that the NSW Aboriginal Land Council is starting a new process moving forward, a process of paying proper respect to our constituted Local Aboriginal Land Councils," the Deputy Chairman said.

"Our LALCs been around for more than 30 years. That's something worth acknowledging, and so is their important role as custodians of their land."

Mr Cavanagh, the long-serving CEO of the Deerubbin LALC, delivered a warm greeting to Councillors.

"It's an honour and a privilege to be invited to welcome you all on behalf of our Chair, Athol Smith, our Board, our members, and all Aboriginal people in our area," Mr Cavanagh said.

"This is the first time this has happened, so it's a privilege for me and I take a lot of pride in that.

"I also take a lot of pride in seeing how far we have come and grown as a people and as a group.

"As a Land Council, we show respect to all those who give us respect as Aboriginal people.

"On that score, I'd like to say thanks - it's a pleasure to be here and I'm more than overwhelmed to be a part of this process.

"I extend the hand of friendship on behalf of all our folk in our area, and as custodians we welcome you to the Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council lands."

The Deerubbin LALC is well respected in the land council network. It currently holds more than 16,000 hectares, making it one of the largest landholders in the Greater Sydney Basin. It also has more than 1,300 land claims still awaiting resolution.

The Deerubbin boundaries stretch from Wisemans Ferry on the Hawkesbury River in the north, and west to Little Hartley, a tiny village at the base of Mt Victoria. It runs south to Warragamba Dam, and west to Smithfield in Sydney's outer western suburbs.

The LALC takes in eight Local Government Areas, but most significantly, it has the largest concentration of Aboriginal people anywhere in the nation.

Formed in 1983, the LALC has undergone several name changes in its time, after starting out as the Daruk LALC. It became known as Deerubbin in the late 1990s after members decided they wanted a name based on local geography (the Hawkesbury and Nepean Rivers) rather than one based on lines on a map drawn by a non Aboriginal man (Tindale) more than a century ago.

To commemorate the 'Welcome to Country' the Governing Council of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council will hang an official photograph of the event in the boardroom, and present a copy to Deerubbin LALC.

Later this year, NSWALC will unveil a plaque at its headquarters in Argyle Street Parramatta to commemorate the 'Welcome to Country' and acknowledge that NSWALC resides within the boundaries of the Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council.