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Community & Business

3 December, 2022

Workers trained to identify culture sites

An innovative collaboration between Inland Rail, Gilgandra Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC), and TAFE NSW, has led to the certification of eight newly-qualified Aboriginal site workers in Gilgandra.

By Emily Middleton

The five-day accreditation program was run out of the Gilgandra LALC office and on-site in the district. All the participants couldn’t be happier after their ‘graduation’ last Friday, November 25.

“We have learnt so much over the past week, and on behalf of everyone, we are so grateful to our teacher Vic for teaching us so much,” Aunty Fran, one of the course participants, enthused.

“There have been so many stories shared, and so much healing that has been done. This has been a great opportunity; I just wish it was longer,” she added.

The statement of attainment achieved by all the students applies to the identification and recording of Aboriginal sites, objects, and cultural landscapes on Country. Each participant was provided with the skills and knowledge to follow protocols of Aboriginal culture, including the need to identify the appropriate persons when approaching a community, and gender and kinship sensitivities.

Acting CEO of the Gilgandra LALC, Trish Pont, explained that the idea came out of a meeting with Inland Rail and the LALC, and they are thrilled the project hit the ground running.

“Inland Rail came to us, and we were having a conversation about what we could do, all together, to help our community, as well as helping the Inland Rail Project,” she said.

“We’ve been trying to get a site survey course together for a while. TAFE put this together, with Inland Rail paying for it. This way we could get the applicants in, trained-up, and ready to go, for when they need them,” she added.

Land councils will now be asked to come along to do site surveys when construction or the like is happening in the area for the project. Ms Pont explained that someone is often required to determine if there’s anything on the ground, under the ground, or on the trees, that are culturally significant.

“Just because it’s not visible to the naked eye, doesn’t mean it’s not there. We have Telstra, Essential Energy, they all come to us for the surveys and, because we have lots of those requests, we tend to use the same people. But this time round, we’ve got a nice wide range of people to choose from!”

Ms Pont explained that within the Aboriginal community, there are certain things that are ‘women’s business’ and ‘men’s business’.

“So, we send two, male and female, to site checks, and they can be on-site together and deal with whatever needs to be dealt with out of respect.”

Most participants in the course are members of the land council, but all are part of Gilgandra’s Aboriginal community. Jasmine, the “quiet achiever” of the group, said that the course for her, is a new beginning.

“I can see that this course has taken me forward,” she said. “It’s a new beginning, and I’m glad that I’ve finished it.

“I’m so proud of everyone; I can’t wait to see what’s next and where this takes me.”

A spokesperson from Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) Inland Rail, said they will continue working in partnership with communities.

“ARTC Inland Rail values our relationships with First Nations communities and recognises their inherent connection to their traditional lands and their continuing responsibility of stewardship and caring for country and culture.”

Next on the agenda for a training session is a drone-use course, which the potiental students are looking forward to.

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