A lot of the stuff we want to do is right here in our own backyard and one of the major partners we need to be engaging is local government, because you know, for all three levels of government, local government is really there at the coal face with the community. If we’re going to be going to State Government and Federal Government down the track for our big picture stuff, we need to be demonstrating that we’ve got a good relationship and a history with our Local Government.
The relationship between Wodonga Council and the community started to repair itself at the same time that I started to work over at Wodonga community. It was a very fractured relationship, but I’ve only experienced positive engagement with council and support and great outcomes.
So, my first involvement with the Wodonga Council was when we first launched our Community Plan at the end of 2015 and that developed progressively and since then has strengthened quite a bit. They’ve been involved and we’ve worked collaboratively on a number of different projects over that time.
So, being on the Network, a lot of it could not have been done without Council and I think about a lot of projects and steering committees and things that come from that Network. How it brings everyone together with an authority to do stuff.
And I think it’s, you know, we’re all kind of getting on the same page for the community benefit for self-determination.
Talking together means that we can understand everybody’s perspective, so much so that I think the relationship has really transformed in that the Indigenous community and what it represents in Wodonga is actually included and part of our Wodonga Community Plan.
So, having an action plan has been really critical for my four-hundred staff, for them to be able to have a point where they can talk about, understand and make sure all the things that they do are inclusive of our indigenous community.
I mean, in Wodonga it’s the first time that I’ve seen a reconciliation action plan or a formalised plan go to that level. A lot of sceptical people or other people that I’ve heard sort of see those things as tokenistic. I don’t see that in this case. So, I can actually see the benefits of that to community. It really is happening.
I think the inclusivity of it – so they include us in lots of things, they’re actually asking us to come to the table, they’re asking us to be members on their committees. So they really want our input.
Aboriginality is being connected to the land. Guess what? Where you live is the land where everyone else is living on – Let’s work from that purpose as a start. Look at all our environmental stuff, lets look at some of the social and cultural aspects, let’s look at community. There’s overlap of purpose and that’s where you start from.
We have quarterly meetings. We have WAN representatives that meet with council representatives quarterly and speak about community issues and also council plans and things that are happening. We’ve had support at functions, we’ve had Burraja, so they are very supportive of our youth programs. Any of our events I suppose that we have, we can count on Wodonga Council to be a part and be supportive of. One of the things identified by our youth, I guess, was that they wanted more culture and the possibility of a youth network. So, we have now established a Koorie Youth Network and Liam’s a member of that. So, he went to BlackOut in December 2016 and is now still going to the Koorie Youth Network that was established this year.
The Koorie Youth Network, it’s really good for the Indigenous youth of Albury Wodonga, not just Wodonga. The Wodonga Council helps at a lot with funding and all that type of stuff and, yeah, it’s really good.
So, I think that my advice would be not to be afraid to approach council, invite them to your Local Aboriginal Network meetings You know, sit down and have something as informal as, you know, a cup of tea. Yeah, I think that my main advice would be just don’t be afraid. Be open and honest about what you want the outcomes to be and don’t rush it either.
Open the door, you know. Have the first conversation and recognise it and talk about those things that make each party feel uncomfortable because if you don’t talk about them you, one, you can’t recognise them, we can’t move through them, so unless the doors are open, those things can’t happen.
Work on repairing the environment, and start from where the stuff is strongest. I don’t go and put a tree in the desert and hope it’s going to flourish. I build close to the water, close to where there is already river and frontage and vegetation, and I move away and as I expand I get better. The environment gets stronger and slowly we get to the desert. So, it is very similar to how you do your projects with council. Don’t go and build something in the desert on your own. Start from where there is already strength of commonality and where there is already good stuff happening, and work from that.
A very long journey, because they reckon there was no Aboriginal people here when we moved here and I think there probably would have been about 30 – 40 Koorie fellows here that I knew of then. Now we have got heaps. If you have got Aboriginal people out there that they don’t identify, they see a community org or someone wearing their Koorie shirt, you know they connect, you know, and it goes from there.
Reviewed 20 April 2020