New beginning

Young has long been a focal point for the Wiradjuri people indigenous to the area, holding many of their stories and fond memories. 

Since the first cherries ripened in the shire’s orchards in the 1800s, they flocked in to pick the fruit.

Local elder Enid Clarke remembers a time when up to 500 Wiradjuri people would come to the town during cherry season, resulting in more than a few “cherry babies”. 

 “It was a gathering place – people still talk about it,” she said, a smile gently touching her face in remembrance.

This week is NAIDOC Week, a time for all Australians to celebrate aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and history, such as the story above.  

And to observe the week, the aboriginal flag has been flying high out the front of Young’s Town Hall. 

“It’s a celebration and recognition of our culture – the oldest living culture in the world,” Enid said. 

“It gives the chance for people, who don’t know much about aboriginal culture, to get awareness of the positives of aboriginal life.” 

Enid, who is chairperson and a founding member of the Local Aboriginal Lands Council and an aboriginal education worker at Young’s three public schools, is part of Young Shire Council’s recently reformed Aboriginal Liaison Committee.

“It’s so important because we have a voice,” she said of the committee. “We share our knowledge with councillors and they share theirs with us.” 

Chairperson of the new committee, deputy mayor Ben Cooper said reinstating it was the first thing he had wanted to do when joining council.

“Sharing knowledge makes us all stronger and builds respect between groups,” he said. 

“As the original owners and custodians of the land, it’s very important that they are part of decision making within the shire.” 

Ben said he first became interested in aboriginal issues in the community after being in charge of aboriginal education at Young High School.

“I know the local Aboriginal community very well and I wanted to see bonds formed between Young Shire Council and the Local Aboriginal Lands Council,” he said.

He said Young lacked positive cultural awareness and Aboriginal knowledge and he wanted to work with the committee to grow this.

“Ask anyone about what the local tribe was around here and very few people would know it’s Burrowmunditory,” he said.

Enid said the Burrowmunditory people, a clan of the Wiradjuri, were one of the only groups of aboriginals in Australia who had a peaceful first encounter with European settlers. 

She said descendants of the clan still lived in Young and the surrounding areas today, possibly including her. 

Enid said today’s Wiradjuri people living in Young were lucky.

“Young is a great place to live and for kids to grow up,” she said. “The support is amazing for Koori kids at Young High School.” 

In the areas of health, education and housing, Enid and Ben said Young had good support.

However, Aboriginal employment opportunities was an area the newly formed committee planned on tackling 

Another focus for the committee is coordinating a shire-wide Aboriginal heritage study, which will help to plan, protect and best manage remaining Aboriginal sites.   

They also planned to establish and maintain a visual presence of Aboriginal culture around the shire.

This included creating an aboriginal display in town hall’s foyer; holding an Aboriginal cultural day in September, with an Aboriginal dance troupe and bush tucker barbeque; and putting up welcome to Wiradjuri country signs.

“The more people we can teach and pass on our knowledge to, the better,” said Enid. 

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