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September 22, 2021

Storylines: Advance Australia Where?

Latest News

September 21: NNSWLHD COVID update and Byron-Tweed lockdown

The Northern NSW Local Health District held a press conference at Lismore Base Hospital this afternoon.

Other News

Police arrest 32 in protests across the state

Police say they have prevented the mass gathering of people in various locations across NSW, arresting 32 people and issuing 265 Penalty Infringement Notices in a coordinated and mobile response to planned protest activity.

Queensland passes voluntary assisted dying laws

Dying with Dignity NSW has welcomed the passage of Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) laws in Queensland and is hoping that NSW Parliament resumes next month so that this issue can be addressed in NSW without further delay.

Hue and cry

Seeing and hearing all the kicking and screaming about our right to choose to not put on masks takes...

Byron Bay Hempire

S Haslam Inside the gut are about 100 trillion live microorganisms that vitally contribute to a strong immune system. These...

Confirmed COVID-19 case in Goonellabah

A local case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Lismore area.

Found – Have you seen Steve? Missing person

Mullumbimby man Steve Mustchin went missing at 11am this morning from Byron Bay Hospital and his family are asking locals to keep an eye out for him.

This article is made possible by the support of Ninbella Gallery.

Eli Cook

Australia, as a nation, is at a crossroads. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed our many frailties and brought them to the front of our consciousness. But rather than view these vulnerabilities as an existential weakness, we should be looking more broadly towards how we can adapt. For too long, we have been stuck inside our comfort zones. The pandemic and subsequent recession have dragged us, kicking and screaming, toward a distinct inevitability: Change.

Are we heading in the right direction?

Indigenous Australians are no different. We too, must welcome change for the betterment of our people. Too often we are distracted by political grandstanding and media indifference towards our very existence. Our treatment is Australia’s greatest shame and until Aboriginal people can advance economically, socially, and culturally, Australia as a nation will never become whole.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have always been able to adapt. For more than 60,000 years we have seen off enormous challenges: like climate change, rising sea levels, and colonisation. Throughout all this, we have managed to maintain our culture and connection to our homelands. This has been made possible through the overarching connection we have to each other.

The mysterious appearance of Aboriginal flags on the Brunswick bridge were a welcome sight on Australia Day. Photo Michelle Begg.

Future challenge

As one elder once told me; ‘Australia is like one big spider web. Our stories and our histories are all connected. We are all one people’. Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians alike must acknowledge this interconnectedness as we forge a shared history into the future.

But what is the way forward for Indigenous Australians? Is it through changing the lyrics of the national anthem? Or hanging our flags in parliament house during NAIDOC week? Whilst these would be nice gestures, they will not change who we are or where we have come from. Sometimes, when you look too hard for a solution, you miss the answer sitting right under your nose.

The solution is us. Our customs and our languages that our old people fought so hard to preserve. The longest continuing culture that can be found on planet Earth. So unique, so powerful. These factors have been the very essence of our survival. It is now time to consider how we can transition from simply surviving, to thriving once more.

It is easy to see our disadvantages. Unfortunately, for many of our people, we lack the economic foundation required to step out of this disadvantage. This has been brought about by many factors directly attributable to our past treatment: Stolen land, stolen wages, stolen children, suppressed languages, suppressed cultures. We have had everything taken from us. However, if we can only identify the problems, how do we generate solutions? We cannot continue to look backwards as a means of moving forward.

Minjerribah – North Stradbroke Island. Photo Wikipedia.

A future grounded in history

History is important and I am in no way diminishing the significance of Australia healing through truth sharing and recognising the wrongs of the past. In fact, I welcome such initiatives and wholeheartedly support the efforts being made in these areas. What I am saying is that modern problems require modern solutions.

Indigenous Australians need industry. This is something that we have lacked in modern times. Our people have forever been hardworking and innovative, but this has been stifled. Industry not only generates income, but purpose. A reason to endure and take risks. A reason to move forward and find opportunities. The foundation of such industry must be our culture.

This is evidenced in places like North Stradbroke Island where the Quandamooka people have managed to achieve something incredible. Through tourism and innovation, they are not only making advancements economically, but also through strengthening and valuing language and custom. Traditions that lay dormant for decades are once again reappearing from the ashes of colonisation.

Indigenous Australians are not going to disappear. Whilst, to some, we remain an inconvenience, we continue to adapt and survive in a changing environment. It is time for us to take the next step in our adaptation by crossing cultural barriers and finding a foothold through our own industries.

Our greatest asset is ourselves. We must take heed of our ancestors and their willingness to preserve their own existence. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will play a critical role in the economic recovery of this nation. It is time for this nation to invest in our knowledge, and together we will indeed advance Australia.

Eli Cook is from the Nyangbal clan of the Bundjalung nation.

His family are descendants of the South Ballina tribe.

As a local school teacher from the Ballina area he has worked closely with the Aboriginal community for the past eight years.

‘I hold a great interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advancement and seek to create stronger communities through truth sharing and shared cultural experiences,’ saya Eli.


More Storylines articles

Storylines – Recognising goanna country

Motivated by the Eddie Mabo case for land rights and the fact that important sites for Aboriginal people were being eaten up by rapacious land development supported by local government, Bandjalang Elder Lawrence Wilson became the prime mover for the original Native Title claims at Evans Head.


Storylines: Growing hope

Hope is a fragile thing in 2021. With the current pandemic and the uncertainty in so many aspects of life, our hope is being shadowed by fear. It is profoundly affecting our humanity.


Storylines: Heal Country

As NAIDOC week arrives and we spend another year celebrating from home, it gives us a chance to sit and reflect upon the theme of this year’s celebrations.


Storylines: Telling our stories connects people to our history and the...

Aboriginal knowledge, is tied up in stories, dance and art. I share my verbal knowledge with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. It is about connecting people to our history of country and heritage and also helps them understand their connection to our environment.


Storylines – the education gap

Access to a good quality education can ensure that an individual will be successful in life. Unfortunately for Indigenous Australians, equal access to educational opportunities have not always existed. Whilst some might argue that this problem is rooted in...


Storylines – Call for Aboriginal housing and support

Byron Shire has been experiencing increasing rents for over a decade. It has become a very expensive place to live.


Storylines: Uluru Statement from the Heart

The 'Uluru Statement from the Heart' seeks constitutional reform to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a say and be involved over matters that impact their lives.


January 26 – a conflicting day for Australians

January 26. A conflicting date for many Australians. For some, this date reflects over 200 years of destruction and denigration of our traditional customs, values, languages, and cultural landscapes.


Storylines: Bring back the balance

There was a time when humans were content with living in harmony with nature, our struggles were elemental and intricately connected to our survival.


Storylines: Advance Australia Where?

Australia, as a nation, is at a crossroads.


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Entertainment in the Byron Shire for the week beginning 22 September, 2021

Please check, at the end of lockdown to see whats on.

Speech pathology student numbers soar at SCU

The number of domestic applications for the undergraduate speech pathology course at Southern Cross University have increased 79 per cent compared to the same time last year.

BREAKING: Byron and Tweed shires go into week-long lockdown

Stay-at-home orders will be introduced for the Byron Shire, Tweed and Kempsey Local Government Areas (LGAs) from 5pm today for seven days due to an increased COVID-19 public health risk.

Ballina charity ball to raise funds for men’s mental health

Locals will have the chance to support local men with their mental health when the Night of Hope Charity Ball takes place in Ballina on October Ball.