Connection to country empowers local communities, closes the gap

Connection to country
Caption; (L-R) Murrin Bridge Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Leonie O’Neill, Murrin Bridge LALC Deputy Chair Betty Biggs and Murrin Bridge LALC Chair Vicki Bell.

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council has returned a 10,500-hectare property to its rightful owners, the Murrin Bridge Local Aboriginal Land Council, empowering the local community and Closing the Gap through connection to country.

NSWALC Chair Roy Ah-See said progress on closing the gap could only be achieved by working in genuine long-term partnerships with Aboriginal people.

“Connection to land and country is the key to healing our people culturally and spiritually. In NSW, we have a well-established Land Rights network that allows certain lands to be returned as freehold title to Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

The title deeds for Barooga Karrai were handed over at a ceremony near Euabalong this week. Cr Ah-See said Barooga Karrai was purchased by the then Wiradjuri Regional Aboriginal Land Council in 1986 due to its cultural significance to the Wiradjuri people.

“The Wiradjuri Regional Aboriginal Land Council pooled its resources to buy the land, but when the Greiner government abolished the regional tier of the land council network, assets like Barooga Karrai were given to the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.”

“In recent times, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council has taken the decision to return those lands for the Local Aboriginal Land Councils to care for and enjoy.”

NSWALC Councilor for Wiradjuri Region Craig Cromelin said the hand-back followed extensive consultation with the Land Rights network in the region.

“When the Wiradjuri Regional Aboriginal Land Council bought Barooga Karrai, it always intended to transfer the property but it was never given the opportunity to do so.

“The government may have taken the regional tier away from Wiradjuri people and it has taken great courage and single-mindedness by local people to right legislative wrongs.

Murrin Bridge LALC Chair Vicki Bell said Land Council members were overjoyed that the property was back in the hands of its rightful owners.

“The return of Barooga Karrai has been a long time coming, more than 20 years since it was first taken from us.

She said the property has the potential to heal and address social issues in a positive way.

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