A celebration of Indigenous culture and reconciliation was on display on Saturday night at an historic event to mark the handover of government land by Landcom to Dharug Strategic Management Group.
Landcom Executive General Manager, Projects Scott Gregg said Landcom was proud to be part of this very significant event, which was attended by members of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and Blacktown City Council.
“Landcom acquired land in the 1980s to provide more than 3,000 new homes in Oakhurst and Hassall Grove,” Mr Gregg said.
“Part of the purchase included a six hectare site that contained remnants of the former Blacktown Native Institution.
“Established in 1823, the Blacktown Native Institution is one of the earliest examples of the government-sponsored removal of Aboriginal children from their families.
“The institution was closed in 1829 and the site is a living memorial to Australia’s Stolen Generations.”
Mr Gregg said the handover event was important recognition of the Dharug people, who have occupied this land for 60,000 years.
“For the past 20 years, Landcom has worked with various community and Indigenous groups, technical consultants, and Blacktown City Council to discuss ownership options and future plans for the Blacktown Native Institution site, given its heritage and cultural significance,” Mr Gregg said.
“In 2009, Landcom instigated the listing of the Blacktown Native Institution site on the State Heritage Register, and undertook extensive consultation, including contacting all known Aboriginal groups.
“There was broad support for the nomination, including from the majority identifying as Dharug people.
“Landcom’s extensive consultation with Aboriginal community groups has confirmed the Dharug people have a strong connection to the land and it has great significance to them.
“This included wide participation of families with a direct connection to the Blacktown Native Institution.
“It was agreed the most appropriate thing to do was to return the land to the Dharug people as the traditional custodians of the land. This event represents a profound step in the journey of reconciliation.”
Landcom and GHD supported the Dharug people in 2017 establish the Dharug Strategic Management Group, a not-for-profit organisation.
Its constitution ensures all Dharug community interests can be represented and its membership and control is in the hands of the Dharug people.
This support will enable the group to manage the site and seek community, government and philanthropic funding to build a cultural centre on the land.
Dharug Strategic Management Group Chairman Dr Shane Smithers said the land handover was a great day for Australia.
“Having the Blacktown Native Institution site returned to the Dharug people is not just an act of reconciliation - the very act of working towards this handover was reconciliation in practice,” Dr Smithers said.
“Whether Black or White, we all worked together to achieve an outcome that is good for all Australians.
“Returning the land to us is a gesture that extends to all mobs affected by government policy, and so this handover is broadly significant and furthers the Kevin Rudd apology.”
Dr Smithers said the Dharug SMG would consult with and involve the broader Dharug community to protect the future of the Blacktown Native Institution site for all Dharug people.
“The Dharug SMG is determined to work as a united team for the benefit of the Dharug community as a whole,” Dr Smithers said.
“Our main purpose is, and will always be, to serve all Dharug people. We aim to celebrate, educate and practice Dharug culture and promote Dharug enterprise.”
The historic event featured a formal land handover ceremony, joint acknowledgements and an exchange of gifts, a Welcome to Country, a smoking ceremony, and dances and music, followed by a corroboree.
The Blacktown Native Institution site is located on the corner of Richmond Road and Rooty Hill Road North, Oakhurst. Building footings are all that remain of the institution.