Liverpool Plains Shire Mayor, Doug Hawkins OAM, says that he was honoured to participate in several NAIDOC Week events and that he always feels privileged when welcomed to country.
"This year's NAIDOC message, Always Was Always Will Be, is an important reminder that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years and are spiritually and culturally connected to this country. NAIDOC 2020 provided an invitation to all Australians to embrace the history of this country, a history which dates back thousands of generations. The very first footprints on this continent were those belonging to the First Nation people and it has been recognised they have the oldest continuing culture on the planet," he said.
"Our Shire is situated in the traditional lands of the Kamilaroi Nation. It was the second largest Nation in Eastern Australia, covering an area of 75,000 square kilometres from around Singleton in the south to the Warrumbungle Mountains, Brewarrina and Walgett in the west, across the North-West Slopes and Plains through to Nindigully in south-west Queensland.
"Council recognises the importance of Kamilaroi history and culture, not only to the 13 per cent of our population that claims Aboriginal heritage, but also to the wider community. It is recognised with an interpretive walkway at the Shire's Visitor Information Centre information at Willow Tree where there is a welcome to country in both the Gomeroi and English language plus interpretive panels explaining the history and culture, sculptures, as well as traditional groove-stones," he continued.
"During NAIDOC week I was delighted to visit Walhallow Public School where I made a little presentation to the children on behalf of the Shire of equipment to play rounders, comprising bats, balls and bases plus caps and water bottles. Walhallow is a great little school and when I was invited to address their assembly I pointed out how proud they should be of it. I was also able to share with them a little about the fun I have visiting their community as part of the Clontarf Foundation Quirindi-Walhallow and return bike ride. It was a fitting story for NAIDOC Week because the Foundation exists to improve the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men," he said.
"Later in the day, I shared afternoon tea with members of the Aboriginal Elders Group at the Quirindi Pavilion. It was a very pleasant occasion, and I got a nice surprise when they presented me with a coffee mug featuring an Aboriginal art design. The gesture was greatly appreciated, thank you," he continued.
"When I was a young man and growing up near Brewarrina, I was very fortunate to have a number of Aboriginal elders as mentors. They gave their time to teach me boxing, swimming, and a lot of life skills that I am forever grateful for. I am also grateful to the many Aboriginal people I know today who share their friendship with me. We are all Australians, but you have a particularly important place in our culture," Councillor Hawkins concluded.