The NSW Parliament General Purpose Standing Committee No. 3 visited Walgett 18 February 2016 to conduct a hearing for its Inquiry into reparations for the Stolen Generations of NSW.
The Committee had responded to an invitation from the Dharriwaa Elders Group.
Dharriwaa Elders Group ("DEG"), 12 community members, Lightning Ridge's NSW Dept of Education Culture and Language Nest, and representatives from the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service appeared before the Committee. Those present were grateful that the Committee had travelled to Walgett, and that two counsellors from NSW Link-Up were on hand to assist.
The DEG's representatives were very conscious of the import of the Hearing and began their presentation noting that two of its founding members (now deceased) were taken from their families to Kinchella Boys Home and Cootamundra Girls Home. This has always been a core issue for the organisation which seeks to support Elders in their wellbeing. DEG informed the Committee that their Inquiry is too late for those two dear members, but timely because we have, in response to mounting concerns of Elders, been developing a Plan with the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service, the Walgett Gamilaraay Aboriginal Community Working Party, community members and service providers who attended meetings in November 2015, to address the social and emotional wellbeing of the Walgett and surrounding communities of North West NSW. We told the Committee that we hope to be seeking support from them soon, after the Draft Plan is endorsed by a final community meeting in early March 2016. We believe that the "Moving Towards Healthier Communities" Plan proposes many of the solutions for our communities that the Committee is tasked to look for. Included in the Plan are calls for a Walgett Wellbeing Centre, a Cultural Workfarm rehabilitation centre on country, early intervention strategies and therapies for children, schools and youth, support for Elders' gathering and cultural / family healing activities, and capacity for Walgett's Aboriginal leadership so they can trully work in partnership with governments to find ongoing solutions together. We told the Committee that in addressing this issue, and therefore the wellbeing of our communities, they will be providing economic development for North West NSW, and that the Plan contains strategies for attracting the "brightest and the best" to Walgett to support the Plan.
Committee members gave the DEG reps a positive response to the organisation's submission to the Inquiry, and asked questions about our suggestions for a "Truth and Reconciliation" type commission, a Stolen Generations Health Care Card similar to a veteran's health care card, community apology ceremonies and memorials.