Walhallow secures major boost for cultural heritage preservation

4 June, 2024

Walhallow Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) has received a significant boost for their community by being awarded $1.54 million from the Australian Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, Growing Regions Program.

Despite Walhallow’s remote location, the community is rich in Gamilaroi history and will now be a home where its cultural heritage and Country will be showcased. The village is nestled in the North West Slopes of the Liverpool Plains and located 34 km from Quirindi, its closest sizable town.

The Walhallow Community Infrastructure Project (WCIP) was initiated and managed by the Walhallow LALC in partnership with Benchmark Certified and forms an integral part of their Community Land and Business Plan. To bring this vision to life a funding submission was lodged through the Growing Regions Program to commercialise the Annie Taylor Health Post, rebuild the old preschool into a modern Cultural Centre showcasing Gamilaroi culture and history, and refurbish the Community Hall. The WCIP demonstrated substantial benefits for the Walhallow LALC and the Liverpool Plains community.

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) recognise the potential of the project and supported the Land Council by providing a Business Development Grant to develop a business feasibility and business plan. The grant was used to support LALC’s Growing Regions application. Additionally, it also unlocked a Community Fund Grant to be used as match funding for their application.

The Walhallow LALC believed that the project extends far beyond the membership. With 90 Aboriginal people living in the Walhallow village and over 400 residing in the surrounding areas, this project is set to significantly improve the well-being of the community, promote business development, and provide employment and training opportunities.

“We are ready to go. We have big plans to bring these buildings up to standard and up to date,” says Jason Allan, CEO of Walhallow LALC. “The Annie Taylor Health Post is our everything building. It houses Centrelink, the Post Office, the employment hub and most importantly, the doctors and health professionals. We want to bring this 1990s building into a 2024 fit-for-purpose dwelling with modern amenities and disability access for all.”

The project will also turn the old preschool into a state-of-the-art Culture Centre. This Centre will be the hub of Liverpool Plains culture and history not only for the local Gamilaroi people but also for all people of the region.

A recent exhibition that will be part of the showcase is the Wallhallow LALC collaboration with the Quirindi Silo Art project, where nine of the Gamilaraay stories have been recreated on the silos in Quirindi. It is a major tourist attraction for the region and visually captivating. The stunning Yiluwidi blue kangaroos and Yurrandaali Tree goanna are significant Gamilaroi totems and have been brought to life through visual art and a light show.

Yiluwidi Blue kangaroos and Yurrandaali Tree goanna
Peter Ryan artist. Quirindi Silo Art

The final part of the project will be the refurbishment of the old Walhallow Hall. This will become a modern-day gathering space for the community.

The Walhallow LALC is situated on the former Aboriginal Reserve, which was once known as Caroona Mission. The Mooki people were brought to this site, and it was later managed by the Aboriginal Protection Board in 1907 under restrictive conditions.

Jason Allan emphasises the power of this initiative, “It has an intergenerational impact on the Walhallow Aboriginal Community. The Elders can now share their stories in both English and Gamilaraay, their Ancestors’ language, instilling pride in their culture and passing down this knowledge to future generations. This Cultural Centre and Hall will serve as a platform to showcase their heritage and living culture for the next generation.”

On May 20, 2024, NSW Senator Deborah O’Neill, alongside Stephen Lawrence, Member of the Legislative Assembly, NSW, travelled to Walhallow to meet with the Walhallow LALC Board to officially announce the approval for the Growing Regions Program funds for the WCIP. Walhallow was one of 40 successful recipients throughout Australia and the only Land Council to be awarded the funds.

“This funding from the Australian Government’s Growing Regions Program marks a transformative moment for our community. The $1.54 million investment will allow us to bring our vision for the Walhallow Community Infrastructure Project to life, enhancing the well-being of our community and showcasing our rich Gamilaroi heritage. We are deeply grateful for the support of all our stakeholders and look forward to the positive impact this project will have for generations to come.” says Susan Smith, Walhallow LALC Chairperson.

Wallhallow LALC Board with Senator O’Neill, Stephen Lawrence- Legislative Assembly NSW
L-R Chairperson Susan Smith, Lorraine Nean BM Raylene Saunders BM, Senator O’Neil, Jason Allan CEO, Raymond Saunders Deputy Chair, Stephen Lawrence, Richard Kilian from Benchmark Certified

Aboriginal tourism is on the rise and is becoming a significant part of the tourism industry. The number of Aboriginal-owned organisations and independent operators has been rapidly increasing in recent years, contributing to a multimillion-dollar industry. Walhallow LALC is working towards being a part of this growth within its community. Currently, a group of people from Walhallow are working on developing cultural tourism. They are preparing to complete their Certificate III in Tourism and are also establishing gardens and organising arts and crafts activities.

“This is only stage one of the projects.” says Jason Allan, “The next stage is building the cultural tourism business. The entire Walhallow community is behind this venture. It will enable our people to showcase their home, their country, and their culture through activities such as walking tours, river tours, language classes, cultural events, healing programs, smoking ceremonies, Yarning circles, and access to Elders, arts, and music programs, you name it.”

To better understand the commercialisation benefits of the WCIP and soon-to-be available new cultural tourism offerings delivered by Walhallow LALC, Benchmark Certified was engaged to undertake an independent feasibility study. “Our findings demonstrate that this initiative will be highly beneficial to the organisation, the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community, and has a high probability of success now and for years to come. The significant interest and support from integral stakeholders further instils our confidence in its positive impact.” says Richard Kilian, Benchmark Certified, Managing Director.

“It’s about that we are all going forward and making sure that our visions are for the betterment of the community, and the one thing that we are trying to build in community is employment and structure. This is something that we are working on. As a community we are opening new ventures to be something that will be self-sustainable for our community, self-sustainable for our future generation, our now generation and we have a vision of what we want to be in the future.”

Susan Smith – Chairperson, Lorraine Nean – BM, Ray Saunders – Deputy Chairperson, Richard Kilian, Raylen Saunders – BM and Jason Allan, CEO.

Acknowledgement

We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the lands where we work as well as across the lands we travel through. We also acknowledge our Elders past, present and emerging.

Artwork Credit: Craig Cromelin, from a painting he did titled, "4 favourite fishing holes". It is a snippet of his growing years on the Lachlan River, featuring yabby, turtle, fish and family.

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