Announcements and Community News

Bigambul Nation Planning – Cultural Flows

By Announcements and Community News

Since commencing our water management project in the last half of the 2018/2019 financial year, BNTAC has undertaken significant activity in the development of the Bigambul Nation Planning – Cultural Flows – Gulli Wongul Nation Plan.


The Bigambul Cultural Flows Working Group undertook significant Nation Planning activity, which was funded and supported by the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations (NBAN). Through the Bigambul Nation Planning Working Group, Stage one has been completed and Stage Two mapped and developed.


A key component of the nation planning and cultural flows process involved the Working Group identifying Our Nation’s spiritual, cultural, environmental, social and economic objectives for the Bigambul sites of significance. Sites of significance identified include:

  • Inglewood Grinding Grooves
  • Boobera Lagoon
  • Lees Reserve
  • Old Camp and Turtle Bend – Toobeah
  • Sandy Beach


This represents an ongoing and continuous work priority for BNTAC.



What BNTAC are doing to preserve our waterways

By Announcements and Community News

In 2018/2019, Our Nation came together for the purpose of the implementation of the Aboriginal Waterways Assessment program (AWA). The AWA Tool allowed Our Nation to consistently measure and prioritise river and wetland health, so that we are better placed to plan, identify and negotiate Our Country’s water needs.


Rigorous mechanisms (beyond the usual economic and environmental indicators) that help explain the importance of water to particular places were critical for effective involvement of Our People in water planning processes. Over the course of the initial undertaking of the AWA, participants visited extra sites of significance, informing their knowledge of up and downstream impacts, threats and other characteristics of Bigambul Country. The following sties of significance assessed under the AWA program include:

  • The Town Common
  • Bondi on the McIntyre River
  • Inglewood Grinding Grooves on the McIntyre Brook
  • Booba Sands on the McIntyre Brook
  • Keetah Bridge on the Dumaresq River
  • Welltown on the Yarrillwanna Creek
  • Old Camp – Toobeah on the Weir River
  • Turtle Bend on the Yarrillwanna Creek


The outcomes and findings of the AWA are contained in the Bigambul Nation Report prepared by consultants, Murawin, contracted by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Lands and Water Division (DPIE Water).


The report outlines the process and findings of consultations undertaken with representatives of the Bigambul Nation for the development of a Water Resource Plan (WRP) for accreditation by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, under requirements of Chapter 10 of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.


The final report outlines the stakeholder engagement and consultation process and methodology undertaken and makes recommendations for future collaboration with the Bigambul people for caring for Country with particular reference to the rivers and waterways. It presents findings on the objectives and outcomes expressed by Bigambul people for the ongoing management of their water-dependent cultural, environmental, economic and social values and uses. Most recent consultations as part of the AWA also extended on previous Queensland Government consultations to the Bigambul nation conducted in 2017 in relation to the development of the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy ‘Aboriginal People’s Water Needs in the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin’ report (released in 2018); meaning there was an existing foundation of evidence to assist in informing, planning and mobilising the AWA process.


The report unpacks and identifies the value(s) and use(s) of our wetlands and waterways to Bigambul people based on previous and most recent consultation outcomes, including from the perspective of social, cultural, spiritual, environmental and economic life domains. The key values / uses that emerged included:

  • The Bigambul people have always valued the waterways as key meeting places, important for ceremonies and family gatherings. These gatherings are used as opportunities to pass on knowledge, teach children and tell stories which connect them to their ancestors.
  • The Bigambul people value the position of the creeks and rivers as important for the transmission of culture and ceremonial purposes, such as sharing information and initiations, and song-lines.
  • The Bigambul people recognise the importance of respecting and protecting the native fish species and turtles which live in the waterways.
  • The Bigambul people utilise parts of the water system for cultural reasons, e.g. using native flora and fauna in making weapons and tools
  • The Bigambul people recognise the importance of clean water for swimming, drinking and continuing traditional fishing practices (spearing fish from trees)
  • The Bigambul people, historically and contemporarily, value the use of water for cultural sites, e.g. Narran Lakes
  • The Bigambul people utilise clean water from the waterways for cultural men’s and women’s Business
  • The Bigambul people recognise the interconnectedness of water, and its role in maintain healthy natural systems.


The report also identifies cultural /socio-political; health and wellbeing; economic; and environmental risks / impacts associated with our waterways, and respective mapped responses needed to combat / mitigate these factors. Outcomes of this process exemplified the importance of ensuring targeted, strategic action for the health and preservation of our Nation’s waterways now and into the future. In addition to presenting the scientific / environmental and economic aspects of risk and impact and their associated response strategies, close attention was also paid to mapping key considerations and needed action regarding the centrality of our waterways and wetlands to the preservation and promotion of Bigambul culture and connection; and subsequent impacts on the health and social and emotional wellbeing of Bigambul people.


These steps / processes and their documented findings also helped to inform and identify what constitute the current and future self-directed objectives and outcome targets for the Bigambul nation in relation to our wetlands and waterways (see Table 1.).

Table 1. Summary of BNTAC’s outcome objectives

Our community-led objectives and outcome targets reflect key strategic directions as mapped and identified by the AWA process and final report, including:

  1. Agreements for access with land owners that allow Bigambul people to walk the country and practice cultural responsibilities
  2. Participation of Bigambul Nation in water literacy programs to enable effective management of water.
  3. A simplification of the water and licencing system to enable participation
  4. Take the lead role in reform of the system on Bigambul land.
  5. Support from State and Federal Governments in recognising that Bigambul Nation knowledge can lead the way in water reform, including funding a position within Bigambul Nation responsible for water resource management
  6. Education and career paths for Bigambul people around water management, including:
    1. Rangers
    2. Environmental Protection Officers
    3. Resource Managers
  7. Involvement in decision making around all water use and flows.
  8. Being granted cultural access licenses and develop policies on cultural flows
  9. Enhancing relationships with other users of water, including other Nations. This could include:
    1. The establishment of forums for discussion with neighbouring Nations
    2. Respect of all water knowledge, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal
    3. Establishing Regional Councils with membership that represents all water users

2019 Bigambul Youth Summit

By Announcements and Community News


This community news report follows the Bigambul 2019 Youth Summit; held over 5days between October 27 and October 1, 2019 in Goondiwindi.


Bigambul Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (BNTAC) would like to acknowledge the financial contribution provided by QGC Shell that supported the convening and delivery of the 2019 Bigambul Native Title Youth Summit.


We would also like to acknowledge the contribution of Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) – Inland Rail.


Special thanks and acknowledgement also go to Bigambul Elders who participated as part of the event’s delivery over the 5-days. We would also like to thank and acknowledge participating young people and our emerging leaders for their attendance, commitment and contribution to the Summit.


The fundamental aim of the Bigambul 2019 Youth Summit was to engage Bigambul young people as part of 5-days of dynamic and interactive Nation Building. Key underpinning objectives included:

  • Facilitating opportunity for a representative group of Bigambul young people to come together to engage in cultural learnings, knowledge transfer and skill and capability development
  • Actively supporting the cultural and social connection and identity of Bigambul young people, and engagement of the next generation as part of native title and nation building
  • Promote and facilitate the cultural, social and economic aspirations and participation of Bigambul young people
  • Provide tangible opportunity to receive the views and input of young people on their needs, aspirations and priorities, so that the voice of our youth is heard and represented as part of current and future strategies and actions
  • Develop the foundation for the establishment of an ongoing Bigambul Youth Advisory Council that will continue to operate beyond cessation of funding

The primary intended outcomes/outputs to result from the Summit included:

  • Development of a comprehensive post Summit report documenting key outcomes and recommendations resulting from the Summit, including the outcomes of the Bigambul 2019 Young People’s Survey
  • The Bigambul Young People’s Strategy – to be developed based around the outcomes and recommendations of this report and also the leadership and contribution of the now formed Youth Advisory Council
  • Establishment of the Bigambul Youth Advisory Council


BNTAC received a total of twenty-five (25) registrations from interested young people to attend the Bigambul 2019 Youth Summit. From the twenty-five young people that registered, fourteen (14) were able to attend.


The Summit was co-facilitated by BNTAC Youth Directors, Lilly Graham and Brenton Sefo-Wallace, in combination with presentations by BNTAC Executive Director, Justin Saunders, and sessions, presentations and group workshops led by Bhiamie Williamson and Stacey Little from the Australian Institute for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).


Key outcomes / take-aways resulting from the 5-day Summit and the feedback and contribution of Bigambul young people, included:

  1. Antecedents for a youth safe space whereby young people felt comfortable and confident to express themselves, included: respect and being open and receptive to questions; effective communication; confidence and not being shame; a principle of no wrong answers or questions; support and encouragement for one another; being active learners and contributors.
  2. In exploring what it means to be Bigambul, young people identified the importance of culture, land and water, the importance of working on country, language; and cultural awareness and knowledge of our traditions – including Men’s and Women’s business. With this also came the collective frustration at the loss of knowledge and the impact of our nation’s history. They also identified opportunities to maximise the freedom’s that Bigambul young people experience today, through Native Title rights.
  • The former connected to identified barriers / challenges holding the Bigambul nation back; with cultural paralysis and a lack of knowledge across and transfer between generations highlighted as a lead factor. Other identified issues included: previous lack of opportunities to come together; divisions at the family and community levels (i.e. factionism) and lateral violence; trauma; lack of understanding of Native Title and Indigenous corporations; and distance and travel.
  1. The latter connected to what was a consistent point raised through the Summit, which was the advocated need, use and place for a dedicated place / space on Country for young people / Bigambul community members to be able to visit and stay on.
  2. The day on Country with Elders provided positive and active opportunity for youth to actively engage in learning and connecting with country, water, culture and each other. Feedback highlighted the particular appreciation of having this opportunity – with many youth delegates expressing they had not had an opportunity like this before.
  3. Antecedents for effective leadership as identified by Bigambul young people, included:
    1. Listening to your people
    2. Being united in our Vision
    3. Passion
    4. “Bigambul leadership should bring Bigambul people together”
  • Extending on the former, expectations by young people of being a Bigambul leader, included:
    1. Confidence
    2. Support and patience
    3. Time management and efficiency
    4. Motivation and passion
    5. Respect and positivity
    6. Knowledge, understanding – inter-generational
    7. Active communication
    8. Social awareness
  • Being a strong leader also means being strong in identity. Key enablers for strong identity as expressed by Bigambul young people, included: having a strong voice; knowledge and learning; knowing your language; connection; understanding traditional lore; adaptability; connecting to country; and healing – of self and collectively.
  1. There were common themes expressed by young people as being their priorities and aspirations. Highlighted themes, include:
    1. The importance of knowledge seeking and continuous learning – including in regard to culture, language and country
    2. Study, training/education and employment
    3. Learning more about Native Title
    4. Being rich in family and community
    5. United in vision for our Nation
    6. Confidence and strong voice
    7. Having a base on Country to come to
  2. Commonly reported obstacles and challenges associated with young people achieving their aspirations, included:
    1. Skills and knowledge shortfalls and gaps
    2. Lack of confidence
    3. Support and networks
    4. Funds and resources
    5. Suitable agreements
    6. Cultural knowledge
    7. Distance and planning
    8. Self (mental obstacles)
  3. Key reported strategies needed to support young people in achieving their priorities and aspirations, included:
    1. Having a base on country
    2. Formation of a Bigambul Youth Advisory Council
    3. More development, training and work opportunities
    4. Opportunities for work through Native Title
    5. Strategic partnerships
  • Priorities for the Bigambul nation and BNTAC as expressed by young people primarily centred around:
    1. More work and economic development opportunities
    2. More dedicated youth programs and establishment of the Bigambul Youth Advisory Council
    3. More working on country opportunities
    4. Convening the Bigambul Youth Summit as an annual event
    5. Development of a Bigambul Youth Engagement Strategy
    6. Broader community engagement and reach
  • The Youth Advisory Council was established as a key outcome of the Summit. Seven (7) nominations were received and accepted. The scope of the group will be to:
    1. Allow youth an embedded mechanism to have their say
    2. Engage with broader community
    3. Bring young people together
    4. Organise the annual Youth Summit
    5. Report to the Board


These outcomes were supplemented by key findings from the Bigambul Young People’s Survey and Post Summit Feedback form. The post-Summit feedback form elicited the following key trends:

  1. Ninety per cent (90%) of youth delegates reported their Summit experience as being ‘Excellent’.
  2. The way family came together; being on and connecting with Country; and learning about our nation’s history, were again lead self-reported outcomes / take-aways by participants. Participants also expressed their enjoyment of being able to speak and express themselves freely.
  • Suggested Summit improvements largely connected with the verbal Summit feedback provided on day 5, with suggestions for: more family involvement; more activities; ensuring this is an annual event for future generations; and increasing next events’ engagement and reach.
  1. Ninety per cent (90%) of participants expressed they would be interested in being contacted by BNTAC for future engagement opportunities.


The survey also sought to obtain further input around Young People’s priorities’ and aspirations, now and into the future. Key priorities for the Bigambul Nation as identified by Young People, include:

  1. Climate and environment
  2. Training, education and employment
  3. Mental health and social and emotional wellbeing
  4. Drug and alcohol related issues
  5. Safety
  6. Poverty and disadvantage
  7. Health and physical wellbeing
  8. Housing


These and other outcomes were merged with verbal feedback and input provided over the Summit’s 5-days, to develop a comprehensive report and set of recommendations.


Based on the key findings and outcomes resulting from the Bigambul 2019 Youth Summit and the Young People’s Survey and Summit Feedback Form, the following key recommendations were developed:

  1. The Bigambul Youth Summit event should be established as an annual initiative by BNTAC for current future generations, with the Bigambul Youth Advisory Council to take a lead role in the planning, coordination and delivery of subsequent years’ events.
  2. Extending on the former, maintain momentum of the Bigambul Youth Advisory Council now that it is established, including progress to coordinate a first meeting of the Council to:
    1. Develop a Terms of Reference and mutually agreed Council Rules
    2. Meeting frequency
    3. Social media and communication platforms
    4. Roles and responsibilities
    5. Scope available funding and resource supports for the Council
  3. Develop a Bigambul Young People’s Engagement Strategy that outlines a clear plan for the current and future engagement of Bigambul young people.
  4. Develop a dedicated Bigambul Young People’s Strategy that articulates our youth’s united vision for our Nation; and responds to the mapped personal and collective priorities, aspirations and challenges of Bigambul young people – as expressed over the Summit’s 5 days and based on mapped priorities from the Young People’s Survey. This will be progressed with and through the Bigambul Young People’s Advisory Council.
  5. BNTAC to continue to explore and grow training, education and employment opportunities for Bigambul Young people – including through expanded strategic relationships and agreements; and maximisation of Native Title rights and working on country opportunities.
  6. BNTAC to scope and explore opportunities to have a dedicated space / place on Country for young people where they can come and visit / stay.


To access videos regarding the Summit and profiling of specific activities undertaken (i.e. Our day on Country) please follow the below media links:






BNTAC would like to offer special thanks to QGC for supplying a videographer to record and compile the above resources.




2018 / 2019 Highlights

By Announcements and Community News

2018/2019 was a year of significant progress and developments for BNTAC – with continual work being undertaken in the post-determination space to develop internal capacity and capability; and to also begin to expand and diversify our work program in line with our PBC functions and based on the united Vision and priorities of the Bigambul nation and community.


The last twelve months’ strategic and operational work programs have been guided and directed by BNTAC’s five Key Result Areas (KRAs):

  1. Maintain rigorous corporate governance practices that are culturally inclusive, accountable and transparent.
  2. Invest in the preservation and advancement of historical and traditional lands, cultural knowledge and practices and promote Bigambul connection to country;
  3. Leverage commercial opportunities to build the economic strength of the Bigambul people;
  4. Build the skills and capacity of Bigambul people through expanded training opportunities;
  5. Bolster and maintain BNTAC capabilities in moving toward self-sufficiency.


In addition to undertaking a Constitutional Review and implementing a number of new provisions and monitoring and management procedures, BNTAC has undertaken targeted efforts to maintain rigorous corporate governance practices.


In addition to securing BNTAC’s Charitable Status and PBI status and becoming GST registered; we have also developed a dedicated BNTAC Communication Strategy, including targeted measures to achieve a locally inclusive and united approach / vision for our nation; established BNTAC Implementation Committees and respective Terms of Reference (ToRs) across these groups to drive BNTAC’s current work priorities and projects; and developed a BNTAC Cultural Capability and Cultural Authority Framework.


Progress has also been made for the period toward building efforts and investment toward the preservation and advancement of historical and traditional lands, as well as cultural knowledge and practices and promoting Bigambul connection to country. BNTAC have now developed a Cultural Immersion Program for implementation, which will be a requirement for all government and industry employees to complete, prior to commencement of any major project work conducted on our lands.  We have also progressed with developing a united Plan for our nation; and development of a current Cultural Heritage Register, comprising records of physical locations and significant sacred and other important sites, song lines and stories within the Bigambul Nation.


A priority has also been progressing with development of a Cultural Heritage, Land and Environment Rehabilitation and Preservation Policy and Management Plan. This will be fundamental toward informing in-built provisions to ensure the preservation and rehabilitation of country, environment and culture as part of any major works undertaken on our lands. Further to this, a critical planned initiative that will continue to be a priority in 2019/2020, is the development of a comprehensive Caring for Country & Cultural Heritage Plan and Scorecard framework. The aim is to provide a comprehensive roadmap for cultural heritage and land and water preservation and rehabilitation. This will be a guiding framework for BNTAC’s own caring for country and cultural heritage work program; as well as informing standards and requirements of proponents working on our lands and waterways.


This will also connect to another planned project for 2019/2020 that BNTAC have been working toward, which pertains to the development of a 10year Economic Development and Prosperity Strategy for the Bigambul nation. The Strategy will actively support our target of leveraging commercial opportunities to build the economic strength of the Bigambul people, as well providing a community-led and locally collaborative road-map; to ensure a healthy; thriving; and sustainable Bigambul nation and community – now and into the future.


These activity measures necessarily cross-over into and also actively support our KRA pertaining to building the skills and capacity of Bigambul people through expanded training opportunities; with mapped economic development priorities and targets to necessarily encompass expanded training and skill development opportunities for Bigambul people. To these ends as well, during 2018/2019, BNTAC has continued ongoing discussions with proponents regarding local economic development and skill and training opportunities for Bigambul people; as well as developing our own revised Workforce Development Plan.  


Focused efforts have also been attributed to new program / project innovation and development, to support bolstering and maintenance of BNTAC capabilities, and aid us in moving toward self-sufficiency.  2018/2019 saw an expansion for BNTAC in terms of our existing proponent and funder relationships; and the projects that we have in place through these current formal arrangements.


Key proponents within our Determination Area and with which BNTAC have formal affiliation, include:

  • Shell Group QGC
  • ARTC Inland Rail
  • Origin Energy


QGC Shell have an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) with BNTAC and through negotiated arrangements, also financially contributed during 2018/2019 to the Implementation Manager role position within the organisation – assisting to drive key reform and strengthening measures pertaining to corporate and operational functions. Furthermore, during 2018/2019, BNTAC received advice from QGC of our successful applications for the following upcoming projects:

  • The BNTAC 2019 Youth Summit that was held September 27 to October 1 in Goondiwindi
  • The BNTAC 3year Determination Celebration, to be held following the Youth Summit as a whole-of-community and family event
  • Part one of the Bigambul Language Preservation Project, which also represents an ongoing work program for BNTAC


Australian Rail Track Corporation – Inland Rail have a formal Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) in place with BNTAC. Through the CHMP in place, ARTC-Inland Rail currently have a workforce in our Determination Area comprising: one Senior Cultural Heritage Field Officer and two Cultural Heritage Field Officers. Funding was also committed to BNTAC toward development of the Bigambul Cultural Induction Program and purchase of Geo-spatial equipment; and ARTC-Inland Rail are also making a one-off financial contribution to the BNTAC 2019 Youth Summit.


Origin Energy is also a proponent operating in our Determination Area. At the End of September 2018, BNTAC was gifted a decommissioned  Camp by Origin. The gifted, 50man camp from Origin Energy was received and placed on the Millmerran property during 2018/2019. The Camp includes:

  • Industrial kitchen
  • Self-contained dongers / demountables
  • Dining / Mess hall
  • Equipment and furniture
  • Electric Boards
  • Outdoor Dining


It is noteworthy too that as part of current discussions and working arrangements with all proponents, there is an emphasis on identifying and cultivating increased training, graduate and employment opportunities. For instance, both ARTC-Inland Rail and QGC Shell presented on local work opportunities and training and employment pathways at the 2019 Youth Summit. 


Other successful applications / proposals for the 2018/2019 period also included BNTAC’s submission to the Commonwealth Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts Program. BNTAC have now secured financial support to build on stage one of our Language Preservation program, to develop audio visual and written resources, complemented by local artists’ works, that can be disseminated broadly and used as key teaching and educational tools for current and future generations. This project is a major focus in 2019/2020.

These outcomes highlight the amount of work and efforts undertaken for 2018/2019; as well as the growth and expansion that has occurred to BNTAC’s current and forecast work program. This places BNTAC is a strong and capable position moving into the next 12month activity period.

ARTC signs statement of commitment with native title holders

By Announcements and Community News

Bigambul youth leaders Lilly Graham and Brenton Sefo-Wallace display the Statement

of Commitment following the signing in Goondiwindi yesterday


ARTC signs statement of commitment with native title holders

The Australian Rail Track Corporation has signed a Statement of Commitment with the Bigambul people of Southern Queensland. 

Initiated by the Bigambul people, the Statement of Commitment reflects the intent of both parties to work together to support the preservation of Bigambul cultural heritage on the Inland Rail alignment as the project progresses through their traditional lands. 

Bigambul Native Title Aboriginal Corporation spokesman Justin Saunders welcomed the signing of the Statement of Commitment. 

“This is about Traditional Owner economic empowerment and giving a voice to our young people so that they become part of the future solutions for the Bigambul nation,” Mr Saunders said.

“We are hoping to build on the existing strengths in our community and build our economic aspirations for the future.

“Our agreement with Inland Rail will help us to foster a greater connection to country for the Bigambul People. We are seeking to create a positive environment for our people through the preservation of our country and traditions while also embracing the future and what that may bring.”

ARTC Inland Rail director of engagement, environment and property Rebecca Pickering said the Statement of Commitment will support the social, economic and health aspirations of the Bigambul People. 

“We have consulted with the Bigambul People to identify ways they can capitalise on opportunities from Inland Rail to create social and economic change in their communities,” Ms Pickering said. 

“Primarily they are seeking to create pathways to support longer term opportunities for the Bigambul People,” she said.

“There is a shared excitement between ARTC and the Bigambul people that these opportunities can be created through targeted workforce and business development focussing on real job outcomes.

“The Statement of Commitment is a significant step as the Bigambul people are recognised Traditional Owners with a Native Title determination giving them established rights in law over their lands to enter an agreement on how we protect their heritage.” 

Ms Pickering said the two parties had also entered into a formal Cultural Heritage Management Plan under the Queensland Cultural Heritage Act, 2003

One of the first tangible outcomes from the Statement of Commitment is the Bigambul Youth Summit. 

“The summit addresses a number of issues important to culture and the social and economic aspirations of our young people as the emerging and future leaders of our nation,” Mr Saunders said.

“The contribution from ARTC allows us to take another step on building a future for our people on our traditional lands.” 

The summit involved Bigambul people between 18 and 30-years-old and is being held on Bigambul country at Goondiwindi this week.


Cheryl Mogg: Because of her, we can

By Announcements and Community News

About Cheryl Mogg

I was born and raised on traditional country in Goondwindi. All the women on Mother’s side – Mum, Nanny and Great-Nanny all come from the country.

We grew up on a reserve, living in a tin hut with no running water or electricity and dirt floors.

Mum, Nanny, and Uncle Edwin were my main teachers, and taught us how to map country, follow the seasons, and spoke with us about our culture and heritage. I attended a one-teacher school at Toobeah, but when the school closed down in the 1960’s, I came out of education at the age of 9 and never went on to finish Primary School.

Although I never attended High School, in my thirties I had the opportunity to be a part of a pilot program for Early Childhood teachers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. So with four kids in tow, I went to University to become a teacher.

Fourteen of us went in to do the training and there’s only three who came out as qualified teachers. It was myself and two other Aboriginal women; we were the oldest of the group so the older ones came out. I graduated from this program after three and a half years of training as a single Mum to four kids.

Following graduation, my first job was at a High School, which was quite ironic since I’d never been to a High School before. I was walking into the grounds that I’d never walked into before as a student. I knew a lot of the kids around the district that were friends with my kids and, of course they all called me Mum because it’s a culture respect.

I decided to become a teacher because of the injustice to Aboriginal children and poor children in our district where no one supported them or believed that they actually could achieve. I grew up in an era where rights for everyone certainly wasn’t given.

When people talk to me, they say ‘you speak so well, you seem so well educated’.

I usually reply: ‘Look, actually schooling stopped at age 9 for me, and it has been my commitment to pursue an education.’

Tell us about your Art

I always wanted to do art, but with raising kids and teaching, it was pushed to the side. That’s why I’m now pursuing art – I made the decision that my last journey will be about me, telling my story. I’m a self-taught artist and I’ve been teaching art in TAFE, in University and in schools but mainly in TAFE for quite a number of years; teaching Indigenous art and culture.

Having won this competition, I was able to spend two days in Canberra where we met some incredible women and saw some amazing art – the kind I’ve always aspired to and taught my students the importance of connecting to country and cultures through their art.

So, it’s an inspiration for me to continue on and tell now the Bigambul story, which is our traditional mob.

I personally spent eight years in the federal court fighting for country and then it went on for eighteen years for us to get determination and recognise as a traditional people of our region.

We got determination in 2016 and I personally took the lead for my family for eight years in the court, but what really helped the process was the work I did in documenting our culture, stories and country that were passed down the family. It then became evidence in the federal court and led into us getting native title so us being on country was the main factor that got us native title, so that was a major achievement.

Now we’ve got the green light now to promote that create awareness, tell our story. Recently I was just handed the whole historical information that’s been gathered over all that period, all those years, of about the Bigambul people and the region. So, that’s my next story I’m going to tell and paint. It’s the Bigambul story based on all that historical evidence.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

It totally gives us the opportunity to create awareness and educate people about the importance of our culture, especially the theme and what that means so for me to do it this year.

I’ve thought about it for a number of years, to do the poster, but I think I wanted a theme that I could actually relate to and I’ve grown up with that theme as well.
It gives the opportunity to highlight the importance of women who’ve led us and trailblazers and they’ve done quite a lot through history.

I believe my painting is pretty timeless as it resorts back to my childhood as what I actually saw as growing up and my Mum and Granny were certainly in a different place than where I am today.

I have a voice and they certainly never had a voice, they were still under the Act and Mum didn’t get accepted till she was 21. So, we were sort of living on a reserve but could have been taken away and then Mum tells a story of when they were kids, they used to hide the kids in the bush.

I come from the worst state, Queensland is the worst state, there was a lot of removals out there of children and we certainly could have easily been some of those children but we were lucky. Certainly, some of our relatives were subject to removal.

Do you have a message for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women this NAIDOC Week?

My message generally would be to set goals for your life and not rush yourself to achieve them because sometimes it’s about the long journey and the people you meet. Also, sometimes you need to leave where you are to find something better but you can always come back from the other way.

Be proud to be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander woman and embrace what that actually means.

Have respect for country and people and your elders. Go back to country, reconnect, learn your language and the stories.  Be proud of that and stand up because that’s what you take with you wherever you go.

That will help you get through life’s tragedies that we all sometimes have to face. We have a beautiful culture, be proud of that, you are the first nationers of this country so take your place.

I think it’s important to set goals in your life and not be so quick about achieving them. Sometimes it’s the long journey but as long as you get there and as you go on your journey there are lots of people who will touch your life and that you’ll let go on the side but align yourself with people that are positive, that are concerned with social justice and human rights and about family and country.

So, it’s about placing yourself with the right people because they are the people who are going to help you get along.

There’s a lot of tall poppy syndrome, lots of knockers around of people who want to achieve and if you’re an Aboriginal woman and very independent and well educated, there’s going to be a lot of knockers and tall poppies to stop you.

You just need to rise above that and follow the journey where you want to go and about making change and what you want to achieve and people will stand with you.

Originally published as part of QShelter’s campaign showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have contributed to the housing and homelessness sector and their local communities. View the full series here.


Alisha McNamara: Because of her, we can

By Announcements and Community News

About Alisha McNamara

I was born in Goondiwindi and grew up in Brisbane from the age of three. I was raised by my Aboriginal Mother, who I think was born in the Brisbane region. Culture is very important to me, and growing up, I learnt a few Aboriginal words, and learned about my dreaming and my tribe, the Bigambul people.

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

I’ve always loved NAIDOC week – it brings a lot of Indigenous people and the community together. During NAIDOC week, you just feel very family orientated and are connecting with your culture.

Did any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander women inspire you growing up?

Definitely my Nan inspired me, and my Mum. They both had very hard lives growing up, but their strength through adversity has inspired me to keep on going through life.

I was also very proud of myself to be able to share my story to young people at a local High School. From the age of 13, I was actually homeless on the streets in Brisbane. I saw a lot of domestic and family violence and drug use during this time. When I was 17, I was able to get off the streets and off the drugs and began full-time University and started working part-time.

Why did you share your story with those High School students?

Telling my story was hard. But if it makes a difference … not to a million people, but to even just one, then that’s enough for me. When I tell my story to these kids, even if it’s not same as other people’s stories, at least they can find something in my story that they can relate to and take back with them. It makes me feel happy to be able to share my story and let people know that, even though you think it’s the end of the world, you keep going because there’s better things out there.

Even if I’m struggling, I want to be able to help people. Because I know that when I didn’t have support, someone come to me with help and that meant the world to me.

Now when I see people experiencing homelessness on the street, I’ll go and buy them food and take it to them. I don’t do this to just make myself feel good. I do it to let them know that there are people out there who care, and that they’re not alone.

Right now I’m in Mackay studying Certificate III in Aged Care, and thoroughly enjoying it.

I love to be working with older people and hear their stores and be able to comfort them and make them happy. In my culture I was always taught that you’ve got to respect your elders, whether they’re white or black.

What message do you have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women this NAIDOC Week?

Remember who you are, where you’ve come from, and where you’re going. Remember that in your blood you’re got strength and to be proud of yourself and your culture.

Originally published as part of QShelter’s campaign showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have contributed to the housing and homelessness sector and their local communities. View the full series here.

Josephine Munn: Because of her, we can

By Announcements and Community News

About Josephine Munn

I was born in Brisbane and raised by a single Mum. My Dad is Tongan, but because I was raised by a strong Indigenous woman, I’ve chosen to honour her and acknowledge my Aboriginality first and foremost. That isn’t meant as a disrespect to my Dad or his culture as I’m proud to be both nationalities, but by embracing my Aboriginality; That’s me honouring her.

How important was your culture to you growing up?

Culture was important, but back then, racism was still rife. When I was a kid and I used to get bullied at school, my Mum always just said: ‘You are who you are. Just be yourself.’

It was just me, my sister and my Mum growing up. I was the youngest right up until I was 15 and my Mum had another girl, Zoe. Sadly we had another little brother but we lost him to SIDS.  So just us three girls and I think because we’re much older than Zoe we looked out for her– she gets away with lots!

I’ve always been in Brisbane and worked in Administration roles for most of my life.

When family members were diagnosed with Bipolar and Schizophrenia, I developed a strong interest in mental health and this started me on a path to my career in community services.

I moved on to work with training organisations and around training on the Stolen Generations. But I’ve been working full-time with BCHS for five years, and on-and-off for about ten years.

I enjoy working in housing as it relates quite strongly to health. I believe health is a holistic thing, and that social integration, emotional wellbeing, and access to secure housing comes under all of that. You can be well in other aspects of your life but being homeless can contribute significantly to one’s health and have deeper impacts overall.

Our services at BCHS are solely for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. We want to empower our tenants into home-ownership, which we’ve been doing for the last eight months.

Most of tenants have been in their housing for quite some time too, 20 or 30 years, so we want to say: ‘Here’s the opportunity to buy your home, we’ll build a brand new one with those funds, giving the opportunity to the next tenant to buy one.’

I value interacting with the community and being able to provide new opportunities for them. It’s always rewarding to see someone purchase their own home through us. Also working with my nominator, Sally, is rewarding – she is exceptional at what she has achieved with BCHS. I don’t know why she didn’t nominate herself!

What does NAIDOC Week mean to you?

I always attend NAIDOC celebrations and I give my kids the day off school to attend. I just think it’s so important to take this time to celebrate our culture; our people; who we are.

I’ve also valued being a part of ‘Deadly Ears’ program through NAIDOC Week, which was a Queensland Health Initiative for healthy eyes for kids in remote communities in Queensland. I loved that, it was deadly going to those communities and meeting those little people – they’re so adorable and loved having outsiders come to their community.

What does this year’s theme mean to you?

Like I said previously, my Mum raised me singularly and I’ve chosen to recognise my Aboriginality first and foremost. That’s important to me because that just shows the strength of my Mother.

There are a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who raise their kids singularly and I think “Because of her we can” that’s a great honour to recognise them.

My Mum might not have done extraordinary things, but they were extraordinary to me. Racism was still rife in 1978 and I used to get bullied a bit in the playground and it bothered me. It made me an aggressive person back then, but as I got older, I realised that the reaction I was giving them is what they wanted and that I was lowering myself to their level; I have learnt over the years to just act with words not violence.

As a Mother myself, I’ve had five babies – I lost a young fella to premature  birth, but I have a 20-year-old, 15-year-old twin girls and an 8-year-old. I want my kids to be proud of me for a number of things, not just one, but I drive it into my children particularly my girls to be themselves, to find themselves and be that person.

You know you’ve done a good job when teachers call you and say: ‘They’re so great, they well mannered, very respectful and that they have voiced her/their opinion/s.’

That’s what I want. I want them to debate things if they disagree, I want them to stand there and be confident that they can voice their opinion.  My Mum, Aunts and Uncles instilled that value in me.

Looking back now, we didn’t have the best of everything growing up but we had everything we needed and my Mum makes me proud.

In saying that, I think I also need to acknowledge Auntie Les – my Mum’s sister. I also want to recognise my Godmother who’s Non-Indigenous, Auntie Carol. Those three women have a massive influence on my life.  And I am truly grateful and blessed to have them.

Auntie Les was involved with Indigenous organisations as a cook and a Carer. I think I developed my own cooking skills from just standing around watching Auntie Les when I growing up.

My Mum and Aunties have always been there when I needed them, they’d drop everything just to help me. Auntie Les is deceased though, I missed her advice and wisdom greatly, although she’s been gone for quite some time.

I think that’s where my interest for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comes from. Auntie Les where she worked at Musgrave Park when it was down at Hope Street South Brisbane, and she helped out at the Hostels. I remember when I was younger going to work with her. Sure I had to get out of bed at 5:00am, but I loved it and she’d cook and I’d help mainly with the dishes but I still loved and valued that time spent with her.

What message do you have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women this year?

It’s so important to take the time during NAIDOC Week to celebrate your culture; be proud of it, keep the celebration going especially for the next generation.

My advice for young women is to find yourself and be that person.

I tell my kids to always be proud of who they are and to be proud of their culture – that’s a message I’d love to share with all women this NAIDOC Week.

Originally published as part of QShelter’s campaign showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have contributed to the housing and homelessness sector and their local communities. View the full series here.

Peace signs and protests: Official 2018 NAIDOC poster unveiled

By Announcements and Community News

Originally published by NITV on 4 May 2018.

This year’s NAIDOC poster recognises the women who have fought for justice in our society.

Protests and peace signs feature in this year’s official NAIDOC poster. The words “Freedom”, “Equal” and “Justice” stand out from the multicoloured landscape, and a vibrant sun shines upon strong women who are fighting for their rights, maintaining resilience and keeping culture alive.

The work depicts this year’s NAIDOC theme, ‘Because of Her We Can’, which aims to recognise First Nations’ women who have, and continue to make, valuable contributions to our communities. With our history books often documenting Indigenous achievements through the work of remarkable men like Bennelong, David Unaipon, Sir Doug Nicholls, Albert Namatjira, Eddie Mabo, Vincent Lingiari and Neville Bonner, this year, the spotlight shines on our women who have played equally significant roles in Australia’s history. Barangaroo, Pearl Gibbs, Mum Shirl, Lowitja O’Donoghue, Margaret Williams Weir, just to name a few.   

It’s a theme which attracted nearly 200 artists to enter its annual poster art competition —double the amount of entries received in the previous year.

Out of hundreds of submissions, Bigambul woman from Goondiwindi, QLD, Cheryl Moggs took out the major prize. Her painting sends two key messages; it celebrates the Indigenous women who have fought for justice in our society; and highlights the importance of connection to country.

With such a groundbreaking theme, self-taught artist Cheryl, felt that this was the year she should to submit one of her works to the NAIDOC poster competition. It was a time to say “thank you” to all the Indigenous female leaders, she told NITV.

“I think it’s the first time I’ve had a bit of a political spin on any of the art that I do,” she says. “I’ve never been a political advocate in a negative sense. I try to do it in a positive way and use the art to do that. It’s a way of creating awareness and educating people of our history, and to showcase the people that were involved in making change.”

In the top right corner is an sun emblazoned in oranges, yellows, pinks, purples and a peace sign. Cheryl says it sends a message to wider Australia saying, “we’re all Australians, it’s time to make peace and come together and embrace diversity.”   

Her painting took just over three weeks to complete, not including the extensive research and planning beforehand.

Cheryl has worked as a teacher for many years, from early childhood to TAFEs and Universities, and recently a men’s prison. She says symbolism in art is something she drives in both personal practice and education.

“When I paint, I’m very symbolic and understand the power of our symbols. It’s something I’ve been teaching my students for a long time … it [my work] was about the three sections; how we’re connected to the sky, the land in the middle and the water. Then I have the extra bits on top telling the story. ”  

By winning this year’s prestigious Poster Competition, Cheryl has received the cash prize of $10,000.

Cheryl received the celebratory news while at work. After a missed call during a meeting, Cheryl got back to the office and received another message that Jacinta from the NAIDOC committee called her. Initially thinking it was a business enquiry about funding, Cheryl said she was completely taken by surprise to hear she’d won the competition.

“I rang her and it was a total surprise because I said, ‘How are you? Do you want to talk about funding’ and she said, ‘No Cheryl, I’m here to congratulate you —well, that was a shock. I shed a tear I can tell you.”  

NAIDOC committee member and one of the judges, John-Paul Janke said that Cheryl’s artwork not only stood out visually, but represented an important story, one that highlights the strong connection Aboriginal people have to country and the journey Indigenous women have endured with over time.

“It was the one the committee felt really captured the theme the most,” he told NITV.  

“The NAIDOC poster sets a dialogue for how non-Indigenous people engage with NAIDOC and more generally Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture,” he said.  

With many elements featured in Cheryl’s somewhat psychedelic painting, perhaps the most curious is the sign posts —Freedom, Justice, Equality, Yes. Giving a visual history lesson, they refer to the women who marched and protested for land rights, the Freedom Ride and encouraged the public to vote “yes” in the ‘67 Referendum.

Treading below these signs are colourful footprints, imprinting the word “Connect”. Cheryl’s artist statement explains. “Our feet remain on country always. Doesn’t matter where our bodies are, we stand with our people, side by side for the betterment of our First Nations. A united force.”   

Janke says that while the committee didn’t look specifically for a female artist, they saw an exciting increase entry of women artists who, like Cheryl, shared a personal connection with the theme. As such, he feels that the poster is sure to have a great impact.

The small town of Goondiwindi have already been impacted Cheryl’s work,

“All the family and all the people in this local community have been pretty amazing with the response,” says Cheryl. “We living in a region which has historically, had a lot of bad things happen here, and it’s something that’s brought people together out here.

“It’s showcased the regional and remote areas that we can actually come together and art does that justice.”