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Community shows love and respect

Friday, 12th July, 2019

Maureen O’Donnell and Jarred Menz. PICTURE: Emily Ferguson Maureen O’Donnell and Jarred Menz. PICTURE: Emily Ferguson

By Emily Ferguson

Emotions were high, but the level of respect was higher at the special acknowledgement ceremony for Maureen O’Donnell, as an acknowledgment plaque was unveiled for her dedication to the Aboriginal community.

The ceremony was held at the Broken Hill Local Aboriginal Land Council with the section of Oxide Street blocked off to accommodate for the large crowd that attended the event. 

Maureen O’Donnell is extremely well known within Broken Hill and surrounding communities as an advocate for Aboriginal people and their rights. So it was only fitting that during this year’s NAIDOC Week celebrations that Maureen, an instrumental voice for Aboriginal people, was acknowledged with a plaque in her honour. 

The plaque reads, ‘Recognising her tireless commitment and dedication to the Broken Hill Local Aboriginal Land Council, Aboriginal Land Rights movement, Social Justice and Native Title Rights, for all Aboriginal people in the Far West of NSW. Maureen continues to be a respected voice and strong advocate for Aboriginal people. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal Land.’ 

Maureen O’Donnell was overwhelmed with emotion and was very thankful to have been honoured with a plaque of acknowledgement.

“It’s wonderful, I wasn’t really expecting this at this time during NAIDOC Week and I’d like to thank the Land Council and all the people that did a lot of work to organise this to acknowledge me,” said Maureen. 

Maureen is proud to be an instrumental voice in advocating for the rights of Aboriginal people but she said the work isn’t done yet.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do and like I said, when you’re working to make change you’ve got to work with a lot of people, you’ve got to have a lot of people supporting you working for the same thing,” she said.

“To bring about change ... we all have to work together and I do that with the wider community and with our Aboriginal community. If we want to make change that’s the way we have to go, we have to show each other respect and work for the right thing.”

She hopes that in the future the local Aboriginal community will only get stronger.

“I would just like to see them get stronger and stronger, see our people in every part of the community,” said Maureen.

“We’re seeing a lot of changes now and our people are in different places and working in government offices and shops and our young kids in McDonalds but it’s got to be more, it’s got to be evenly strung right across so that our people have the right to work and do things, too.”

The microphone was offered to anyone who wished to speak about Maureen and many people spoke of her and how she has impacted their lives individually and the community as a whole. 

Chairperson of the Broken Hill Local Aboriginal Land Council Jarred Menz thanked Maureen for her endless support.

“I could speak all day about the contributions Maureen has made to our Local Aboriginal Land Council, it is through her leadership and tireless commitment to our Land Council that we can continue to provide services under the NSW Aboriginal Land Council Act,” he said.

“We acknowledge and honour Maureen today with this special plaque ceremony which will forever acknowledge a strong, unique, inspirational Aboriginal woman to us here now and long into the future.”

Denise Hampton recognised Maureen’s endless community engagement and contribution.

“She was always an active member of the council, contributing knowledge and sharing ideas and being involved in many community discussions on a voluntary basis, she did this because she wanted to bring about positive changes for her people and her community,” she said.

“I would like to commend you on being a strong and resilient advocate for our people in Broken Hill and in the Far West region ... so all I can say is thank you Aunty Maureen for your contribution, for what you’ve given to this community over many many years.”

Taunoa Bugmy thanked Maureen for all that she has taught her over the years, “You’ve been a very inspirational role model to me throughout my upbringing and are always there for a bit of advice and I thank you for that, I appreciate everything that you’ve done for us because we wouldn’t be here today without you.”

Taunoa also read out a letter on behalf of Mayor Darriea Turley who congratulated Maureen for her ongoing dedication to the local Aboriginal community.

“Despite all the challenges that you have had to endure you have always found the strength and courage to fight for all Aboriginal people, your commitment and leadership inspires me to do better for our community,” said Mayor Turley. 

Carol Kickett spoke about how much love she has for her mother.

“Bringing up nine children she was just marvellous, we get our strength from our mum and she has installed that in us and to do the very best you can,” she said. 

“It’s lovely to see what she has done through the years, not just for us but for the wider community, her dedication, her love and support, she’s gone without herself for us.”

Barry Gresham spoke about the privilege and honour of knowing Maureen.

“It’s been a pleasure and joy to have her as a friend... It was a pleasure to work for her, with her and through her and Maureen god bless you dear... This recognition, excuse me for saying this, but she bloody well deserves it.”

Sandra Clark acknowledged her Aunty for her strength and all that she has passed on.

“We had a great family, we were brought up with love and respect,” she said.

“I think it’s a fitting theme (Voice. Treaty. Truth.) to recognise Aunty Maureen at this time because she has been the voice of our family and we hope to continue that on.” 

Cory Paulson also spoke of how this year’s NAIDOC theme is fitting to Maureen, “Your reputation procedes you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you’ve done for me and my people, and as a committee member of the NAIDOC theme Voice. Treaty. Truth., this lady is a living embodiment of what we are talking about, she has an accolade list as long as my whole body and she is an inspiration and voice for our people.”

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