Aboriginal corporation launches crowdfunding campaign to buy back traditional land
9 February 2022 at 10:58 pm
The NFP’s crowdfunding campaign has raised just over $300,000 so far
Despite occupying the Northern New South Wales Tablelands for over 30,000 years, the Anaiwan People own just 0.1 per cent of the land. Now, a not-for-profit language revival group is out to change this.
At the end of January, the Nēwara Aboriginal Corporation launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise between $350,000 and $450,000 to purchase a 100 acre bush block on Anaiwan Country.
And in just a few weeks, the campaign has hit over $300,000.
Set up in 2016, Nēwara runs a number of Anaiwan language and culture revival projects, including teaching language classes, cultural education programs and developing an Anaiwan dictionary and grammar book, set to be released in 2024.
But with the majority of Anaiwan Country under private or government ownership, the corporation is now turning its sights to buying back land to be used for cultural revival activities such as camps for Aboriginal kids in out-of-home care, on-Country Anaiwan language learning, and the growing and harvesting of native foods and medicines.
The campaign was inspired by the recent success of several other Aboriginal groups in Australia and the rest of the world who ran crowdfunding campaigns to buy back land.
A Central Victorian campaign on Dja Dja Wurrung Country last year managed to raise $150,000 in just eight days.
“It’s just frustrating”
Dave Widders, the spokesperson for the fundraising campaign and Nēwara board member, told Pro Bono News that watching non-Aboriginal people profiting off of Anaiwan land for many years had been frustrating to watch.
“The New England region is really rich in agriculture, particularly for sheep and cattle… and I’ve seen a lot of farmers make a lot of money from this land,” Widders said.
“Aboriginal people are certainly not seeing the wealth of any of that.”
He said that he’s paid up to $3,000 to use a piece of private land to run cultural camps, money he believed was better off in Anaiwan hands.
“This is about us having a plot of land that we can rightfully call ours and get easy access to without red tape, without bureaucracy, without having to ask a white person if we can go onto our land and teach our kids our culture,” he said.
“And it’s not coming out of taxpayers’ money, this is coming out of the goodwill of beautiful people across Australia.”
He also said it was important that they had a block of land that properly represented the Country.
“One farmer actually offered us a plot of land to use, but it was completely flat and had no trees, it was built for cattle and sheep. So it’s a nice gesture, but it doesn’t have a real meaning to us,” he said.
“Anaiwan land is granite country. It’s full of gorges, lots of beautiful little brooks, creeks and rivers, so it’s really important that we get a plot of land that actually captures the Anaiwan essence.”
An investment in the future for all backgrounds
Widders said that the benefits of Anaiwan people having ownership over their land extended to non-Aboriginal people in the surrounding community as well.
“Of course, this is going to be incredibly beneficial for future generations of Anaiwan kids, but we want to teach non-Aboriginal people our culture also,” he said.
“We want to do language lessons with non-Aboriginal people. We want to take them out and teach them the local history of the area, about what happened to our people and how the land was taken from us.”