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One further step towards reconciliation

Last Thursday December 7, the Lower Clarence Aboriginal Tourist Site Drive – a series of 13 interpretive signs – was officially launched at the Maclean lookout. (l-r) Ferlin Laurie, Aunty Lillian Williams, CVC mayor Jim Simmons, Cr Greg Clancy, CVC general manager Ashley Lindsay, Aunty Stella Randall and project coordinator Deidre Randall. Read about the Lower Clarence Aboriginal Tourist Site Drive on page 6. Image: Geoff Helisma.

Geoff Helisma

The view outlook over Yaegl country from the Maclean lookout is stunning; last Thursday the perfect weather enhanced the view … and the occasion: the launch of the Lower Clarence Aboriginal Tourist Site Drive.

Various stakeholders made speeches regarding their involvement in the project, but when Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) general manager Ashley Lindsay stepped forward to make his speech, 40 seconds in he had to pause and regather his composure.

“Every time I talk about this stuff I get upset,” he told those gathered.

“What a fantastic location this is; Yaegl People are wise to make this a very special place – it’s an honour and a privilege to be here.

“Billy [Walker, chair of the Yaegl Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation] we’ve got a lot of work to do … and I’m committed as (CVC) general manager that we will work closely together to highlight the Yeagl culture, and that’s what we need to do as an organisation.”

Following Mr Lindsay’s speech, the mayor, Jim Simmons, made this statement regarding CVC’s proactivity: “You probably haven’t got a more receptive council at the moment – you haven’t got a more receptive general manager, and you probably have never had a more receptive mayor to try and [implement] some of these measures.”

The following day, the Independent spoke with Mr Lindsay, who expanded on his emotional response. “It’s the history and culture of the Aboriginal community; it’s very emotional,” he said.

“Over many years the Aboriginal community really hasn’t had a voice and I think [with] what I’ve experienced, particularly at Tabulam the West Bundjalung native title determinations and at the Yaegl determination on [Pilot Hill, Yamba]; it just means so much to them, to be recognised as the traditional owners of the land that we take for granted.

“It is emotional; it affects me in that way. Australia is seen as a very young country, but it’s not: it has thousands and thousands of years of history through the Aboriginal communities.”

Mr Ashley outlined his determination to further implement CVC’s Aboriginal Employment Strategy, which aims to align the proportion of employees with the percentage of Aboriginal people in the valley’s population.

“It’s in the order of six per cent,” Mr Lindsay said, “just under 30 positions I think; I believe we are about half way there.”

Meanwhile, Cr Simmons spoke about the Local Government NSW Annual Conference held in Sydney last week – also attended by Mr Lindsay and Cr Greg Clancy – and encouraged the Yaegl People to make contact with Sean Gordon, CEO of Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council on the Central Coast.

“He was a very impressive speaker,” Cr Simmons told those gathered. “He had some good ideas about the use of land where Aboriginal folk have been granted native title … to create some longer term economic benefits for Aboriginal people and employment.”

The Darkinjung land council’s 2017 annual report highlights that 83 Indigenous jobs have resulted in over 38,000 hours [of work] being completed, “along with 31 Indigenous traineeships and apprenticeships being undertaken”.

“… Darkinjung further developed its partnership with Commonwealth Bank Australia over the last year with a milestone achievement of one Aboriginal employee in every Central Coast branch.”

Mr Walker said the tourist drive launch was a “resurrection of Yaegl culture”.

“It’s been dormant for so long, for so many reasons, and some of those reason aren’t positive.”

He said it was good to see all involved in the project “come together as a group, which will in turn close the gap and also [assist] with reconciliation”.

“The corporation is only new to the game at this stage, but we [look forward to] getting together, working together, walking together, talking together … to help us with our aspirations and visions,” he said.

“The corporation supports all of this, and … to be here on a nice day, with such a lovely view, it’s beautiful; you can feel the old [deceased] people with you.”