SIGNIFICANT: The story of the scar tree was part of the Bangarra Rekindling program performed at the Saraton Theatre in 2017. Learning from past mistakes is an important part of Restorative Justice.
SIGNIFICANT: The story of the scar tree was part of the Bangarra Rekindling program performed at the Saraton Theatre in 2017. Learning from past mistakes is an important part of Restorative Justice. Adam Hourigan

Scar tree loss a chance to learn

THE concerns of indigenous people can often be played down or overlooked by the wider Australian society, particularly issues that seem insignificant to mainstream thinking.

One of the recent events affecting the indigenous communities of the Clarence Valley was council's illegal removal of a cultural item of significance to our people.

However in a report in The Daily Examiner (Reckless' finding reveals scar tree cost to council, 1/5/19) the article only focussed on the costs associated with the issue of the Grafton scar tree.

This tree was known to be more than 200-years-old, holding significance for its cultural, natural and historical values in the Aboriginal and wider communities. There is no way to put a price on what has been lost.

This article made no reference to these important facts and reflected the outdated thinking that continues to perpetuate negative attention towards Aboriginal people.

Firstly, the value of what's been lost and what that means to many of us was overlooked in this article. Many of us applaud the outcome of the Land and Environment Court for making a decision that highlights the value of Cultural Heritage in NSW and Australia. We have set a new benchmark on how our heritage matters.

The penalty costs for council's offences being awarded to Grafton Ngerrie LALC is a milestone for Aboriginal people in Australia.

While this may seem unfortunate to some people living in the Clarence LGA it is a reflection of the change of times around us and a celebration that legislation finally supports the voices of Aboriginal people.

It also needs to be said, these funds are to be used to carry out obligations to the Court, and only on projects agreed to by the Aboriginal community and council. This is what restorative justice is all about.

The Cultural Skills Development training raised are again an obligation to the court and there will be no extra financial costs to council regarding changing the existing Orders to comply with the court outcomes regarding training as the article suggests.

The training costs are less than stated and should take into account the volume of participants and the value of the skills workers are gaining.

Participant feedback has been positive and appreciation for cultural heritage values is improving.

Why should cultural skills development be implemented by a court order rather than included in general training?

When compared with general infrastructure and training expenses, this overdue attitudinal change our LGA is undergoing comes at the cost of our tree. Something invaluable. Our loss has set a pathway for the LGA to embrace change towards an inclusive and culturally competent LGA.

We are not the winners in this story, and there are no costs that can heal our loss.

Since attitudinal change comes from the top let's hope our councillors can accept their responsibility as leaders rather than advocate council as the losers in this story.

Giinagay Jinggiwahla ("hello" in our first nation languages) is a weekly column covering the indigenous communities of the Clarence Valley exploring a variety of topics, opinions and events across our first nation areas Bundjalung, Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr.



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