Bigambul Youth Summit engages new leaders
The future of the Bigambul nation in south-west Queensland is bright. That’s the key takeaway from the inaugural Bigambul Youth Summit held in Goondiwindi.
The five-day summit brought together a group of aspiring Bigambul leaders, engaging them in native title and Indigenous governance and inviting them to have a direct say over the future of their people and the Bigambul Nation.
The summit was the result of almost six months of preparation by the Bigambul Native Title Aboriginal Corporation (BNTAC) and its Executive Director Justin Saunders, with the support of Shell’s QGC business and the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
Mr Saunders said the summit was driven by their youth leaders and a realisation that for Bigambul to thrive into the future, youth needed to build their understanding of native title and to be actively involved in setting the strategic direction of BNTAC.
“This initiative was driven by our youth. They aspire to be involved in the Bigambul Nation and want to play a key role in our future,” he said.
“But they also recognise that to be a leader requires knowledge. Knowledge about native title, about their people and about their Bigambul Nation.”
That’s what the Bigambul Youth Summit delivered. It brought young Bigambul men and women on to Bigambul Country, many of them for the first time.
The summit was part facilitated by Bhiamie Williamson of the Australian National University’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research and Stacey Little from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
Mr Williamson and Ms Little passed on their specialist knowledge around native title and governance and supported the leaders to identify their own personal priorities and group vision.
The summit also included a day visiting significant Bigambul sites, including Turtle Bend – the old reserve at Toobeah, outside of Goondiwindi, where many Bigambul Elders grew up. While on country, Bigambul Elders spoke to the young people about family history and passed on their knowledge.
For Brenton Sefo-Wallace, a BNTAC youth director and one of the summit leaders, the day on country was particularly powerful.
“I feel proud. Proud to be a Bigambul man,” he said.
“Just being on country and seeing where our grandmothers and grandfathers grew up and how far we’ve come as a people.”
Brenton’s fellow BNTAC youth director Lilly Graham, 22, had to spend time away from her newborn daughter to play a leadership role at the summit.
Lily says it was worth it to be part of an important moment in Bigambul history.. A Bigambul Youth Advisory Council will now be established, the young leaders have identified their vision for the Bigambul Nation and there are plans to make the youth summit a regular event.
“I took away so much more knowledge than I did walking into the summit,” she said.
“It means a lot to me to be able to pass that knowledge down to my daughter and to keep pushing forward.
“One of the reasons I’m confident about BNTAC and the youth advisory council is our youth want to be accountable for the future. We’re going to be working really hard to deliver.”
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