As a result of an 8 year partnership between Gamilaroi Murri members of the Narrabri community and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Deriah Aboriginal Area has seen significant educational, training and employment opportunities invested into the Narrabri community. Both local Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members and businesses are benefiting from this partnership goal to create a fun and safe place for people of all cultural backgrounds and age groups to visit, learn, share, teach, enjoy and engage with the cultural heritage of the area.
An unknown person or persons has thrown a dark cloud over this goal by deciding to shoot one of the sculptures.
Like many areas in northern NSW, and right across Australia, there is a long history of racism, and of opposition to acknowledging and embracing Aboriginal peoples and cultures. It is unknown if this recent attack was done out of malice, drunkenness, or simply carelessness but regardless of the intent, Chairperson of the Deriah Aboriginal Area Co-Management Committee and Gamilaroi man Steven Booby says that while it is greatly upsetting to see, it has only strengthened his commitment to see that local Aboriginal culture receives the respect and recognition that it deserves.
we have no need be intimidated or bullied, we have nothing to be ashamed of and we have no reason to hide our culture or identity.
"The whole gunshot incident came as total surprise to everyone involved with the Committee as well as to numerous members of the local community in general. Considering what the Deriah Aboriginal Area contributes to the local community and what we are attempting to achieve in creating a brighter and common future for everyone, there’s probably a few ways we could’ve interpreted this act.
For us, we could see this as a small and uneducated minority of people just driving around the country side, content in their ignorance and just shooting stuff up. But I think we could also possibly interpret a deeper meaning behind the vandalism, we could see this act again as a small and uneducated group of people using firearms to possibly try and intimidate, scare, bully or attempting to threaten our ability to continue, celebrate and share our cultural practices and ideologies.
As nation of Australia’s First People, born from this land, as Gamilaroi Murries, to me, these interpretations also provides us with a wonderful opportunity to lead by example. As people we have no need be intimidated or bullied, we have nothing to be ashamed of and we have no reason to hide our culture or identity. If I have a look at what we’ve overcome and at how strong we are becoming, the support we receive from a vast majority of people from all walks of life, far outweighs any negativity. To me, that’s more than enough encouragement to know that what we are doing is wonderful thing, not just by our lore, our land, our ancestors or our community, but by our future generations and to all those others who chose to learn and share with us.
I think most enlightened and educated, 21st century Australians embrace a holistic view towards Australians of all cultural backgrounds and I think most people respect everyone’s right to practice their culture. You know, as long as you’re not using misinformed cultural or religious ideologies to impose negativity, discrimination or violence onto others or their culture, most Australians will embrace you, probably even want to learn and share with you and so should we as a Committee."
A generation ago this sort of attack on an Aboriginal place might have been expected, but Steven says he was surprised that it happened now, given the levels of support there was for the area, and the level of interest in people wanting to visit the area.
"Over the last few years, we’ve had many visitors to our area, so I’m guessing the numbers so far would literally be in there thousands. The groups always vary, from local elders, women’s, men’s and family groups spending the day there, including local community open days. Over the time we have members of the broader Gamilaroi Nation regularly visit as well as members from other Indigenous Nations from across Australia who choose to visit. Numerous mainstream local community members head out for the day and we also have interstate visitors often stopping in on their way to Kaputar National Park.
The committee has also given presentations at the World Indigenous Conference gathering in Sydney and the Blue Mountains and the 2016 Australian Archaeologist Association Conference."
Steven is unsure about if he thinks the bullet hole should be fixed, as he believes that it is important that such acts are acknowledged, and can serve to illustrate to others the realities of ongoing racism and the challenges that Aboriginal people still face.
"Realistically, the Committee will probably never know why this happened or what the reasons were behind the act and we’ve only had brief discussions about it so far. But in saying that, our Committee could use this vandalism in a positive way and as a teaching mechanism that will benefit everyone. If we decided to leave the bullet hole in the Wirrilaa – Wagun, brush turkey sculpture, we could use this as an opportunity to start discussions that illustrate some of the darker chapters of Australian history that aren’t overly acknowledged or talked about, but in some shape or form are still occurring today. I don’t believe the Committee will use this incident as part of a 'blame game' scenario or as a platform perpetuate some kind of poor me mentality among our people; instead, perhaps we can use this as a tool to enlighten, strengthen and empower not only ourselves but also the broader community in general."
Under the National Parks & Wildlife Act, vandalism in parks is a crime and carries numerous penalties, including fines, criminal records, and possible permanent loss of firearms license.