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The power of culture in the Kimberley to turn around young lives

Dianne Bortoletto -

Walmajarri man Peter Murray has a vision: he wants to see Kimberley communities that are crime free, culturally connected, proud, and strong.

The 49-year-old from the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia was recently appointed Chief Executive of the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre, an organisation in Fitzroy Crossing established in 1984 to support the cultural practices of 30 language groups.

The new CEO plans to build the organisation and set KALACC up for success and succession.

Mr Murray told National Indigenous Times that one focus in the coming year will be engaging youth at risk in song, story, dance and the sharing of traditional knowledge.

"We are losing our Elders who have cultural knowledge, and we're looking at ways to pass that knowledge down to younger people," Mr Murray said.

KALACC wants to strengthen participation in law and culture, by bringing in young people who are known to the justice system, or who are at risk.

"We've recently been undertaking law business, and it's still happening now, we had about sixty girls and sixty to eighty young men out on country," he said.

"What we found, was that those kids who are usually mucking up in town, were really co-operative and respectful to their elders, their mothers, and their families.

"We've noticed this shift happening over law seasons, kids are recognising that the traditional law process is important and very serious."

Mr Murray's passion for tackling youth justice issues stems from his four years as a Police Aide in Fitzroy Crossing, and his time as a school attendance officer employed through the WA Department of Education.

With strong links to the Kimberley Land Council, the Kimberley Language Resource Centre, local police and the Marra Worra Worra resource agency (MWW) where he is the chairman, Mr Murray is laying foundations to deal with issues in a systemic and community-focussed way.

For the past 15 years, Mr Murray worked for the Yanunujarra Aboriginal Corporation which manages 77,500 square kilometres of Ngurrara native title, and he held the CEO role for the past ten years.

His previous work experience includes being a ranger at the Kimberley Land Council where he was given leadership training and the skills that saw him transition to ranger co-ordinator, managing two ranger programs.

Early in his career, Mr Murray completed a trade to become a qualified miner, working in the mines in the Fitzroy Valley.

"I've worked as a miner, a police officer, in education, and then on the other side of the fence as CEO of Yanunijarra, so I have a broad understand of the resource sector and what mining company's want as well as what's needed in the community and for our young people," he said.

"I'm optimistic about the future – KALACC is an old and strong organisation with the cultural authority and backing of the whole Kimberley. We're ready to make and to see positive change for our communities."

For more information, visit kalacc.org.

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