Staff profile: Josh Ridgeway, Social Media Officer, NSW Aboriginal Land Council
I’m Worimi and my family is from the Port Stephens area, although we moved around country New South Wales during my childhood. I am one of four children. We lived in Tamworth, Griffith and Faulconbridge before settling in Blaxland in the Blue Mountains. I was born in Penrith in western Sydney.
Both of my parents are teachers, and they brought us up to value education and to use it, not hoard it. My mother was, and still is, a music teacher. I was surrounded by music as a child. Tamworth is an inspirational place for any musical person, which probably explains why all my family are huge country music fans!
I come from a line of very strong men, on the Ridgeway side. My grandfather was a mission manager and had a challenging life, constantly on the move around New South Wales with his family. Communities alternately loved and hated him, as many related better to a whitefella on the mission, than one of their own.
My father became a school principal many years ago, and has also made major sacrifices throughout his career as well.
My life has been more settled than theirs, mainly due to the sacrifices they made for their children. I went to the University of Technology Sydney to do a degree in Communications and Journalism and then worked at Centrelink, SBS and NITV before coming to the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.
I am the Social Media Officer at NSWALC and update the social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I also bring my experience in video journalism in sharing stories through OurMob.
I often travel to Local Aboriginal Land Councils around the state and can see how the LandRrights network connects on the ground. I hear people’s stories, record them, and am a conduit to help them tell their stories to the wider network. People sometime ask me about whether I become involved in the stories and communities. Of course I do. Every story has an impact. But good journalism is not about being a part of the story because that is activism essentially. OurMob is here to help the network share their own stories, successes and goals.
My standout memory from my time at NSWALC so far was the Freedom Ride re-enactment in 2015. I must admit, I expected the Freedom Ride to involve jumping on the bus and getting the stories done. But it was actually much more than that. There was a feeling, an essence that permeated the entire crowd from Sydney University, NSWALC people and the original Freedom Riders. To be a part of that re-enactment, to see and hear the stories about what it was like then, compared with now. The changes that have been made. And those that still need to be made.
We travelled to so many communities. Moree, Bowraville, Kempsey. And every community was different. Bowraville is still calling for reform. An Aunty told me how the last time she walked into the cinema there, she had to go through the back door. And now she could enter through the front door for the first time. For someone like me, who has grown up in a completely different era, that was astounding.
The travels and stories help strengthen my own sense of self and my relationship to my culture. By doing my work, I’m embracing my Worimi self, to be more proud of myself and resolved in who I am as a man and as a member of my community. I am stronger now and not afraid to stand up for myself. I’m not Aboriginal, I’m Worimi.