Ross Hampton, a Ngiyampaa (Keewong Mob)/Wiradjuri man from West Wyalong, is the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council Director for the Far West Zone.
I was born in Lake Cargelligo, Dad was a railway fettler, we lived at a little railway siding of Gunnebang (between Euabalong and Condobolin) before moving to the Lake to live as a family in railway tents next to the silos before Dad took a transfer to West Wyalong on the railway – as they say, the rest is now history.
Land Rights and Aboriginal affairs have always been strong within our family. Mum (Evelyn) and Dad (Ross) along with mum’s brother, Uncle Billy Rutter, were instrumental in the establishment of the West Wyalong Local Aboriginal Land Council. My niece Leanne Hampton is now the CEO for the WWLALC and is also Deputy Mayor for the Bland Shire Council – definitely in the blood. Many of my siblings, their family and our cousins are involved in land councils across NSW.
I can remember some of my early years in Sydney with Aboriginal Hostels Limited and the Land Rights marches. There was a group of us from within Hostels who used to meet at one of the early openers (they were the days) before heading off to be part of the marches along George Street.
I have had the opportunity to work with some terrific government and non-government agencies over the years, One of the influential ones being Aboriginal Hostels Limited where I enjoyed 21 years of service in various States and Territories. After many years away, I finally came back to NSW with the Aboriginal Housing Office for 7 years and a further 3 years with Murdi Paaki Regional Housing Corporation in Broken Hill, before joining NSWALC as Zone Director in May 2011.
These employment situations have provided me with an opportunity to work with and along side some wonderful people, many of whom I still stay in contact with today, and who are themselves involved in land councils at their local level. It was good to meet up with many of them at the 2013 NSWALC State-wide Conference in Cessnock.
In the Far Western Zone there are 11 land councils located in the areas of Balranald, Broken Hill, Cobar, Dareton, Ivanhoe, Menindee, Mutawintji, Tibooburra, Wanaaring, Wilcannia and Winbar. It is a pleasure and a privilege to work for NSWALC in supporting and working with these LALCs in achieving their aspirations. Whilst it will always be a challenge for NSWALC as the funding body and compliance regulator to balance the support and advisor roles at the Zone level, I have nothing but the upmost respect for LALC Boards and staff for their professional approach in their relationship with NSWALC.
Whilst our LALCs out this way are not rich in cash assets, they more than make up for this in their land and cultural assets. The exciting thing for me as Zone Director is that the LALCs want to move forward and to build upon the opportunities they previously did not recognise nor have the necessary endeavour to explore.
There are LALCs that have been embracing economic/business development for a number of years now and it is hoped that with the announcement of the NSWALC Economic Development Policy that their opportunity to expand and build upon these will be supported. Balranald, Tibooburra, Broken Hill, Mutawintji and Menindee are good examples of this economic/business development in practice. Cobar, Dareton and Wilcannia are gearing themselves and planning their opportunities over the next 12 months.
I remain committed to assisting the Far West Zone LALCs in achieving their goals and dreams into the immediate future as I believe that the journey has only just started, and whilst we still have some challenging work ahead, the benefit to the LALC and community will be forthcoming and a just reward for the long struggle many of our families and elders have fought for.