Following an earlier motion in May which was voted down, the Anaiwan people will soon be acknowledged in the city’s welcome signage following a unanimous motion at today’s Armidale Regional Council meeting
Council has voted to erect a sign that says ‘Welcome to the Ancestral Home of the Anaiwan people” will be erected at the Armidale city limits. The motion differed considerably from the original motion put forward by Councillor Brad Widders in May, which called for the lands of the Anaiwan, Banbai and Dunghutti people – and potentially Gomeroi if a Native Title determination is made in their favour – to be acknowledged at the boundary of the Armidale Regional Council area.
The difficulty Council had with the matter relates to a claim by the Gumbaynggirr people. The Gumbaynggirr are traditionally associated with the Mid North Coast of New South Wales and their recognised lands border Anaiwan lands to the east. While they do not have an approved native title claim on any lands in the Armidale Regional Council area at the moment, the Gumbaynggirr people have lived in the area since at least the 1800s and were recognised by white colonial leaders when Armidale was being established.
Two Gumbaynggirr women addressed Council before the official meeting began.
Hazel Vale explained that the Gumbaynggirr people have a strong connection to Armidale and the region, and they are people of water who feel their connection to this country and its waterways.
“I have great respect for the Anaiwan people, but I cannot deny my grandfather, and I cannot deny my grandmother. I cannot deny my heritage.”
“Our cultural values are based on respect. And we ask you to respect our elders, and not put up signs for just one people.”
Mavis Ahoy also spoke against the signage proposal, unless the Gumbaynggirr were also acknowledged.
“I’ve lived here, I was born here. My children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren all born here.”
“It’s not for, with respect, everyone sitting here to decide these things. It’s native title.”
Ms Ahoy, who has previously campaigned for her ancestor ‘King Bobby’ to be recognised, explained they have a lot of evidence of their people’s contribution to the region back to the 1800’s.
Councillor Brad Widders, who has both Anaiwan and Gumbaynggirr heritage, acknowledged their concerns and thanked the Gumbaynggirr people who attended the meeting, but asserted that 95% of the evidence pointed to this land being Anaiwan.
“The Anaiwan people have been here a lot longer than the 1800’s,” Councillor Widders said.
Councillor Widders said the proposal is a starting point, not an end point.
“I originally wanted to acknowledge all the peoples of this region.”
After the meeting, Councillor Widders described the moment his motion was finally accepted as monumental.
“It’s a monumental moment in getting recognition for the Anaiwan people.”
“And it was good to have the support of the other councillors,” he said.
Also in today’s meeting, Mayor Sam Coupland and Deputy Mayor Todd Redmond were re-elected to their roles unopposed, and Council voted to continue the development of a ‘New England Future Fund’ to utilise funds from the renewable developments for the long term benefit to the region.
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