Sorry Business –The Passing of Aboriginal Leader, Cindy Berwick

12 November 2021

NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) and the Land Rights network mourn the passing of Cindy Berwick.

Cindy grew up in the inner city of Sydney and was a Ngunnawal woman descending from the Bell family in Yass.

Cindy was a fearless leader in education and dedicated her life to supporting Aboriginal students’ access to quality education so they too can achieve their educational aspirations.

She commenced her teaching career in 1984 in secondary mathematics, held various executive positions within schools and across the NSW Department of Education and lectured at Sydney University and the University of Western Sydney.

Cindy led the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc (NSW AECG) as its President for 14 years.

Under her leadership, Cindy was instrumental in strengthening and growing the organisation, and in doing so building opportunity for Aboriginal community viewpoints on education to be heard and responded to across NSW.

During her leadership, the NSW AECG strengthened their excellency in service delivery, providing professional and cultural immersion learning for teachers across NSW, and providing advice to the NSW Government on improving NAPLAN results for Aboriginal students. Cindy led the way with highly successful Aboriginal education programs and initiatives including: the Pirru Thangkuray (Dream Strong) Cultural Engagement and Goal Setting program; Aboriginal Culture and Literacy programs; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Camps, and Opportunities and Wellbeing (SHOW) Camps.

She also oversaw the planning and implementation of an Aboriginal languages framework and delivery across NSW schools and TAFE Colleges.

Cindy was recently the Co-Chair of the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations (NSW CAPO). As Co-Chair Cindy played a prominent role in developing the Partnership Agreement and National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

The NSWALC Chairperson and North Western Region Councillor Anne Dennis says that Cindy was a passionate advocate for educational equality and a dear friend.

“Cindy steadfastly believed that Aboriginal people should determine their own futures. She consistently showed her commitment to the power of education, by listening to the voices of her Elders and knowledge holders and Aboriginal students of all ages.

She was integral to the development of the Healthy Culture, Healthy Country program which advances the importance of maintaining local Aboriginal languages and cultures through education.

Through her work, the program emphasises the synthesis between the health of Culture, the health of Country, and the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people,” Cr Dennis said.

The NSWALC Deputy Chair, NSW CAPO Co-Chair and Northern Region Councillor Charles Lynch said that Cindy was a true example of using her extensive knowledge to lead from the heart.

“Cindy’s legacy will not only benefit the young people of today, but it will advance the lives of young people for decades to come. Cindy was inspirational with her fearless and steady influence, her dedication to equality and excellence, and her steadfast commitment to our young people and indeed all Aboriginal people’s right to quality and accessible education.

She was influential in advocating for a Premiers Priority for Aboriginal Education. Working with the NSW Department of Education and the Premiers Implementation Unit, Cindy was key in partnering on six new initiatives to increase the proportion of Aboriginal students attaining year 12, while maintaining their cultural identity.

Cr Dennis says she is immensely grateful to have worked with Cindy Berwick for many years and is proud of her legacy.

“I will miss Cindy’s passion, her friendship and her steadfast commitment to Aboriginal communities.

I would like to pass on from NSWALC and the Land Rights network, our deepest condolences to Cindy’s family and her extended NSW AECG family at this very sad time,” Cr Dennis said.