Stepping up through Land Rights

CrDenniswebAnne Dennis is a Gamilaraay woman, Councillor for North West Region and a member of the Walgett Local Aboriginal Land Council.

I was born on Namoi Reserve and used to walk from there to go to Walgett Primary School. I wasn’t really aware of conditions and differences and living in a tin shack, it didn’t bother me it was just a normal part of growing up. But sitting around with the Aunties, they would talk about how important education was and how we can improve living conditions. I have fond memories of my grandfather speaking Gamilaraay language but he would never speak that language around us, I didn’t really understanding the issues around that. But today with the revival and revitalization of language, it makes me realise more what I have lost.

I think Land Rights has given Aboriginal people a voice to speak up and say that conditions are not appropriate, reconnected us with land and land ownership. Also having access to land for social, cultural and economic purposes, it’s so important, it’s our land and people need to feel safe.

The houses that people have today, the three-bedroom homes, we wouldn’t’ve had that without going through the Land Rights system. The experience that any person can get through Land Councils is equal value to being involved in local government and it puts people in good stead to handle different types of meetings and debate and to really fight for change.

My background is in education, I’m a life member of the NSW AECG and Chair of TAFE Westerns’ Aboriginal Community Reference Group.

I get excited when young people come along and want to join the LALC, they are joining more and more. If they could learn about the Land Rights legislation in school, as they do with local and state government, then our young people would have a better understanding of what the Land Council is about.

I know a lot of young people who are stepping up within the network and they are taking on more significant roles and responsibilities.

Land Rights helps people with cultural identity as well as building confidence and self esteem. More and more we are finding young people wanting to access land and programs, for example in our region we’ve got properties, one’s a wheat property one’s around cultural access.

When I see mob on country, or being involved, there’s a sense of achievement, cultural identity and proud to be Aboriginal.

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