Member profile Clarke Webb

“Our elders are screaming out for young people to get on board because youth are our future.”

My name is Clarke Web, I co-ordinate a program here in Coffs Harbour called Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan or Two Paths Strong.

I work as an Aboriginal Cultural Heritage officer but I mainly work in a lot of schools with young kids to try and improve their education as well as cultural knowledge and language and retention rates.

In 2010, I started a program called Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan which means Two Paths Strong.

Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan offers after school learning for all kids, especially Goori kids. We set up 3 after school learning centres at Wongala Estate Aboriginal reserve, Woolgoolga High School and William Bayldon Primary School in Sawtell.

I’m a member of the Coffs Harbour and District Local Aboriginal Land Council and have been a member now for 5 years.

Basically, I just thought it was about time to become a member of the Land Council, obviously being the peak organization in the local area, especially in regards to local heritage and rights.  I wanted to be a part of making those decisions.  I think that’s the power that we as members have, that ability to vote on different issues.  I just wanted to be a part of that process.

To me Land Rights is the most important fundamental basis that we need to make sure that our communities go forward because it means we can have a better economic future and we can also ensure its sustainable in terms of ecology and the protection of cultural heritage values.

My advice to any young people would be to get involved and start to try and wrap your head around some of the legislation, which is very difficult to understand sometimes but if you start early, you’ll get there.

Our elders are screaming out for young people to get on board because youth are our future, so it’s important that we educate ourselves about all these issues and have a say.

We try and run some fun and engaging events each term. Just this term, we ran what we call the ‘lub 4 readathon’ and that’s all about trying to instill a love for reading with all of our kids.

We had a whole heap of donations from organizations like Misfit Aid, the surf brand sponsor (one of my cousins) who donated a heap of foam boards, body boards, scooters, snorkeling gear, skim boards. These prizes have flow on effects with healthy lifestyles. You go down on the weekend now and see the kids down there having a go at surf.  The Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office donated over 200 books, which were given out as prizes.  Other local businesses have donated stickers and different prizes as well.  The ‘Lub 4 readathon’ means kids have half an hour to read many of the Indigenous writers?? and prizes are awarded to them according to how many books they get through.

We try and run a bit of language in our after school learning.  It seems most successful at Woolgoolga High School.  The kids are really keen to learn and speak language up there and intermittently as well both here and at Bayldon, the kids are into it for after school learning but we also run a morning breakfast language class in here at Wongala Estate each Thursday from 7.30am until 9am until school starts.

Last week we hosted a language summit at one of the local resorts, which incorporated 3 days of intensive language classes and it was a really positive outcome which sparked interest in a lot of people which is good because that was the original goal.

Language is something I’m really passionate about.  I didn’t grow up speaking Gumbaynggirr and Bundjalung fluently, although I use words and Aboriginal English, which is important, especially in terms of learning Gumbaynggirr now.  It’s always been a sore point for me not being able to speak either of my languages and its still something I’m sore about but instead of letting it get to me too much, I thought I may as well do something about it, and then try and encourage other people to do it also and keep it alive. You know we really need to act now on it and make sure our language stays strong.

My vision for Land Rights is to use the Land we win, although it’s not much, to use it for some kind of ecological way to provide jobs and to put some money back into the community, to get a bit of an economy out of it.

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