One of the founding members of the Tamworth Local Aboriginal Land Council (Tamworth LALC) Brian ‘Jock’ Allen, says that the strength and vision of the LALC has inspired growth and confidence in the community.
Only a few months ago, Jock found the minutes of the very first LALC meeting, handwritten on a piece of notebook paper, which he says reminds him of just how far the Land Rights movement has come.
“We started off with very humble beginnings,” he says. “In the original days, there were a couple of us who were real ‘rough and ready’. It was all about getting down and fighting for land and economic rights- for recognition. But I’ve seen a big progression in our community from those days. People didn’t always think they had the right to talk or to share their views, but there has been a growth and now, we feel like we can get our ideas out there.”
It is these ideas, on how to best support the work of the Land Council and respond to the needs of the local community, that the LALC wants to champion. It is currently working with other Aboriginal organisations in Tamworth to better consult and reflect the community’s ideas to Council and others.
Chairperson Harry Cutmore says, “we realised that all of our organisations were doing things in isolation but the LALC has a role to play in coordinating things at the community level. It’s all about helping our people stand together with more unity.”
The LALC board members agree that being more inclusive and getting a better idea of what the community as a whole wants, can only bring benefit. It’s something the LALC is focusing on because in the past, some board members have felt that individual views have dominated.
“Traditionally, a lot of our Land Councils were run by big families in the area so you couldn’t really get involved if you weren’t part of them. They would just put their interests forward. But now, with better governance structures, it stops that kind of stuff and more people can get involved and have a voice,” board member Trevor French says.
“Part of that is teaching our young ones about governance and business. They are getting smarter you know! Getting them to participate and learn about the constitution will keep the Land Council strong.”
Developing strong business practices has already reaped rewards for the LALC. It was recently chosen as the service provider to run the city’s Opportunity Hub. The Hub will partner with schools, tertiary education, local employers and training providers, to match young people with education and training opportunities.
With initiatives like these on the horizon and with an increasing leadership role in the community, the LALC looks forward to building on what has already been achieved.
“I’ve seen the goalposts change so much over my time”, Jock says. “We’ve gone from having nothing, to having our own preschools, employment services and stuff like that. That’s the real power of Land Rights, in being able to control things ourselves. It’s all about power and knowledge.”