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Wiradjuri Elder Uncle Neil Ingram responds to Orange council debate on cultural training

May 29, 2023

Uncle Neil Ingram. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Uncle Neil Ingram, Sr

Senior Wiradjuri Elder

I would like to respond to the article in The Orange News Examiner (Orange mayor tells councillor to "watch what you are saying" during Indigenous training debate) dated 17/05/2023.

I am a proud Wiradjuri Elder. I have experienced racism every day of my life.

I support the call by Orange’s Indigenous deputy mayor Gerald Power for Orange City Council’s councilors to receive Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Training.

This motion led to an outburst by councillor Kevin Duffy, who said he wasn’t impressed by this idea, claiming he didn’t need “bedtime stories”, and that we can’t be “going around willy-nilly”.

Mayor Jason Hamling then cautioned councillor Duffy to “watch what you are saying”.

Councillors need to learn about Aboriginal culture and history. They are supposed to be leaders in our community, and they have a responsibility to understand the commonalities and differences that exist in our community.

How we covered the story.

Orange City Council needs to include the Council Committees in this training, especially the Culture and Heritage Committee.

It is important that the training should be a formal package, including Elders, with a focus on local issues.

Oral history is an integral part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultural practices, heritage, beliefs and lore. It is not a bedtime story or just going around willy-nilly. It is our Dreaming.

A couple of months ago, I received a request from several councillors who asked if they could meet with Elders to learn and gain a better understanding of Gaanha bula, and why it is a sacred and spiritual place for the traditional owners.

Gaanha bula Mount Canobolas. NPWS.

Recently, councillors and Elders met on Gaanha bula and we were able to share our stories and song lines, resulting in a good learning outcome for all.

Aboriginal people and stories have crossed this landscape since before the beginning of time and before the invasion of European colonisers.

Our history is a part of our Dreaming Story. It lives within us and is passed on from generation to generation by our Elders. This is why it is important that we share it with the wider community.

Councillors need to embrace the foundation principle of Yindyamarra – the Wiradjuri philosophy of dignity and respect.

We never ceded our sovereignty, and have occupied these lands for tens of thousands of years.

Hopefully, cultural awareness training will help facilitate a better, more respectful relationship in the healing process towards reconciliation.

I don’t think this is too much to ask.

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