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Apology to Uncle Neil Ingram

April 17, 2024

By Peter Holmes

A grant application approved by Orange City Council on Tuesday night incorrectly named Wiradjuri Elder Uncle Neil Ingram as being involved in a community event that was benefitting from the funding.

The man behind the event has apologised to Uncle Neil, and said he didn't realise that all grant applications to council were on public record.

The application was made by Lewis Bird of The Amend Project.

He was seeking nearly $2,000 of ratepayer funds to hold a "Remembering Our Mates" candlelight barbecue social event on May 8, which is focused on men’s mental health and suicide prevention.

The grant application contained a section under the heading "Local Business Use" that asked the question: "Will you be supporting local businesses? Please list any local business that you will be using and the level of expenditure."

In this section Bird had written that the funds would be used for expenses including $500 for meat from North Orange Butcher, $250 for drinks from IGA, $500 for Uncle Neil Ingram to conduct a "Welcome/Acknowledgement To Country", $250 for an unnamed guest speaker and $250 for Officeworks items and advertising.

However Uncle Neil had no idea about the event, nor had he been approached to conduct a Welcome To Country.

The matter of the grant was debated in the council chambers on Tuesday night.

Councillors spoke in support of Bird's initiative, but two concerns were raised: first, that The Amend Project was a for-profit organisation, and council grants were only given to not-for-profits; second, they wanted to know if Bird had first approached people to do a Welcome To Country or guest speech for free, given the nature of the event.

Ultimately, councillors voted in favour of the grant funding.

The Orange News Examiner published a report on the council meeting late on Tuesday night.

When Uncle Neil read our story and saw that he had been named in a grant application, he was mortified and deeply upset.

He called us and said he had no idea about any event or grant application, and that he had not been approached to conduct a Welcome To Country. Nor had he set a fee of $500. He said he was considering legal action.

The Orange News Examiner contacted Bird to ask how Uncle Neil Ingram's name had come to be included in a grant application published in an Orange City Council meeting agenda.

Bird said that he had received quotes for a Welcome To Country that varied between the low hundreds of dollars and $1,000, and that he had put down Uncle Neil's name because he was the Elder he planned to approach if the grant was successful.

"I'm very sorry - I didn't realise this was a public document," he said. "I didn't understand it would be made public to the media. [If I had] I wouldn't have mentioned his name as I was still waiting to chat to him. I hold Uncle Neil in such high respect and I'm devastated."

Uncle Neil told The Orange News Examiner: "I'm upset and believe that Lewis should have sought my permission first before addressing council, and not wait until after council approved the grant application." 

Bird has spoken to Uncle Neil. "I apologised for my naivete. I'm just trying to learn from this."

Councillor Tony Mileto said Bird should consider re-adjusting the grant application.

"I can understand why Uncle Neil is upset. Knowing Uncle Neil, and knowing his regard towards supporting mental health and suicide initiatives, I think if he had been approached he probably would've done it for nothing out of his own goodwill."



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