Aboriginal elders and custodians have for a long time been calling for the creation of Aboriginal cultural centres in both Byron Bay and Ballina to bring together, celebrate and communicate the history and culture of the region's Arakwal and Nyangbul people of the Bundjalung nation.
As the oldest living culture in the world, Bundjalung clans have lived and practised culture and connection to country in the Northern Rivers for over 70,000 years. The rich and diverse cultural expressions of Aboriginal communities across our region need to be recognised with bricks and mortar permanence, and I am supporting community to see this delivered in the near future.
Arts and language are essential to the wellbeing and identity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and play an integral role in ensuring the sustainability and viability of community. A Cultural Centre on Arakwal land in Byron Bay and a Bundjalung Cultural Centre in Ballina will become spaces for Aboriginal people to share language, culture and art and collection points for the many artifacts discovered in the region.
Much of Bundjalung historical material is locked away and being preserved as though it was a thing of the past. In recognition of living cultures it's well overdue that we see Aboriginal Cultural Centres in our region. I want every visitor to the region to be immersed in the fact that they are walking on Aboriginal Land that was never ceded and that they are entering a living, breathing culture in every part of the landscape they experience, underpinned by knowledge accrued over millennia.
Aboriginal Cultural Centres in Byron Bay and Ballina will support our burgeoning cultural tourism industry, in which Indigenous cultural exchanges are a key attraction in a highly competitive international market. This is a reality that the community wants us to embrace.
Having Bundjalung culture at the heart of tourism in the region creates jobs and economic self-determination for Aboriginal people. If we are serious about Reconciliation and hearing the voices of Aboriginal people though the Uluru Statement from the Heart, we need to start delivering real action on the ground.