Our Land, Our Legacy

As the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) gears up for the Council election on October 31st 2015, the question remains: How do we engage more members and why should members be engaged in the Land Rights network?

In this edition we feature an interview with Dr Heidi Norman on her new book titled “What Do We Want? – A political history of Aboriginal Land Rights in New South Wales.”

Dr Norman noted that there’s been a drop off in the number of candidates nominating at elections and voter turnout, saying the highest peak participation was in 1991.

“I think in order for the Land Council to be vibrant and for Council to come in with a strong mandate, there needs to be a lot of buy- in from the community and that buy in includes voting,” Dr Norman said.

We profile Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC), one of the richest Land Councils in the network thanks to a multi-million dollar sale 15 years ago. They are now growing their profits through property development.

Darkinjung LALC CEO Sean Gordon says now is the time to capitalise on what he believes the Land Rights Act intended.

“Look, in my own personal view, I think when Land Rights was established, it was a Land Rights based movement, it was about getting land back for compensation for what was lost, but it was also about building a strong economic base. Unfortunately, I don’t think the network has shifted far enough,” he said.

Wiradjuri man Matthew West, a 23 year old podiatrist and associate lecturer, who we also profile, agrees.

“Land Rights to me is a way for people to accumulate wealth. I find with Aboriginal people, it’s often something which is cheapened. Aboriginal people are seen as people who take handouts or if you try and accumulate wealth you’re being seen as greedy but that’s not the case,” he said.

Also featured is an interview, the first of a three part series, with the Registrar of the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act, Stephen Wright, who talks about the highs and lows of Land Rights and some of the changes following the amendments to the Act, which take effect on 1 July, 2015.

One of NSWALC’s longest serving staff members, Bundjalung and Yuin man Phil Mundine says it’s time for a new generation to step up.

“We need them to embrace the old with the new and combine their modern skills with the wisdom and knowledge of past political and resistance battles and cultural awareness,” he said.

We profile medicine student India Latimore, a recipient of the $5,000 2015 Freddy Fricke Scholarship. NSWALC hope to expand the scholarship to make it more sustainable for years to come.

If you’re new to the Land Rights network or thinking about joining, then I encourage you to read this edition of OurMob, where you might just find some of the answers about why being engaged in the network is necessary and about the ongoing legacy of Land Rights and most importantly, why your involvement matters.

In other news…

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) has started planning for the 2015 State-wide Conference to be held at the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley between Monday, August 17 and Thursday, August 20, 2015. We will continue to bring you updates on the conference over the next few editions of OurMob as well as on our social media sites.

Don’t forget Community Development Grants of up to $50,000 are now available to eligible LALCs for the acquisition of land and land management activities.

The grants are a result of a community development fund created by NSWALC to ensure LALCs can share in the wealth of Land Councils that enjoy a stronger economic base.

To find out whether your Land Council is eligible and for information on how to apply visit https://alc.org.au/nswalc-in-the-community/nswalc-community-grants.aspx or contact NSWALC Policy and Programs Unit on 02 9689 4444 or policy@alc.org.au

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