THE FIRST ever Aboriginal Ipswich councillor will be sworn in to council when Division 3's Kerry Silver takes her seat in the chambers.

It is an extraordinary first in the 156-year history of local government in the city and one that Ms Silver, local Aboriginal leaders Louisa Bonner and Caroline Bonner-Bray and Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale hailed when they spoke to the QT.

Ms Silver has traced her ancestry back to the Yugambeh nation language group, connected to the Bundjalung

The language was spoken by people living on the South-East Queensland coast between the Logan and Tweed River.

Local Aboriginal leaders Louisa Bonner(left) and Caroline Bonner-Bray meet with Division 3 councillor Kerry Silver and Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale (back).
Local Aboriginal leaders Louisa Bonner(left) and Caroline Bonner-Bray meet with Division 3 councillor Kerry Silver and Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale (back). Rob Williams

Ms Silver said she was proud of her roots and that she only acquired a deeper knowledge of her past as she has grown older.

"I was nearly an adult when we found out we had connections to the First Nations," she said.

"Growing up I would read stories about the Stolen Generations and it tugged deep inside of me and I just knew there was something there.

"Then we started looking into our family history and found that connection with the Yugambeh. It is a wonderful, amazing culture."

Louisa Bonner is the Ngaran Goori co-ordinator, an organisation that is a contact point for traditional owners.

Ngaran Goori has representation from three major tribal groups - Jagera, Daranbirrin and Ugarupul - all from the Yuggera language nation.

Ms Bonner said it was a thrill to welcome an Indigenous woman onto council.

"It is a bit historic for us as traditional owners," she said.

"I've never seen anything like it.

"I hope it is a good thing, if Kerry is connected to her roots and her family ties and they have strong passion for Indigenous Australians and particular traditional owners in their country."

Ms Silver's response indicated she has that passion Ms Bonner spoke of.

"I am really looking forward to working with Ngaran Goori to try and bring about their cultural heritage centre. That would be awesome," she said.

"I have travelled to countries like Fiji where they have amazing cultural heritage centres but it is something we haven't embraced in this country. That would break down so many barriers if they knew the history and pride the First Nations people have, and should have, within themselves."

Ms Bonner said Ngaran Goori needed a lot of things, but a cultural heritage centre would be "a good place to start".

"That would show we are still here, ever alive and present within our country," she said.

Ms Silver said a lot of young Indigenous people were lost and not getting the connection they need.

"They need their connection to country and that (heritage centre) would be somewhere they could go to and feel safe and learn the traditional ways and how those things still work in with modern society," she said.

"We need to take steps to ensure everyone in this country, and in our city in particular, knows their history and knows where they come from and embraces that."

Ms Bonner and Ms Bonner-Bray are Jagera descendants of the Yuggera nation, including direct descendants d famous warriors Multuggerah and Moppy through Ms Bonner-Bray's father Henry Bonner.

Ms Bonner-Bray is the niece of the late Neville Bonner, a Jagera man who was Australia's first Indigenous senator. Ms Bonner-Bray welcomed Ms Silver's elevation to council.

"I think it is wonderful," she said.

"The council will get a better understanding and viewpoint from her perspective as an Indigenous person, but I prefer to call us First Nation people.

"And as a First Nation person she will have a better insight due to her own connections to her own people.

"We have a niece who is a senator in the federal government, Joanna Lindgren.

"It is lovely to see our people in local, state and federal government, and it is about time. My uncle was the first Aboriginal senator, Neville Bonner…and we were very proud of him.

"He didn't go in there just as a representative of Aboriginal people. He went in like everybody else. But the issues out in the community laid heavily on his heart and he had to look closely at them."

Ms Bonner-Bray, a Jagera elder, said her uncle dealt with racism as a politician.

"But he was a statesmen and he he held his dignity," she said.

"He spoke the Queen's English very eloquently because he had a grandmother that taught them how to read and write."

Cr Pisasale said he looked up to Senator Bonner and that Ms Silver now would also be an inspiration to many.

"This city has always been a leader," Cr Pisasale said.

"We were first with the Indigenous Accord in Australia and our Indigenous community is the best in the country and a model.

"Senator Neville Bonner was like a mentor to me and he gave so much encouragement to this city and the whole of Australia when he became the first Indigenous senator.

"He was a gentleman and did a fantastic job.

"Now it is so exciting to have Kerry, the first Indigenous person ever elected to our council. This will play an important role with us in working with the Indigenous community at a greater level, and we can do a lot more.

"It is exciting for Ipswich and Australia and I hope that Kerry will be a mentor to a lot of young Indigenous people to show what you can do."

Ms Bonner said it was vital to respect the rights and needs of those traditional owners and to provide support so they can rise up in areas of education and business so they can be leaders. She said the the linkage between council and the Indigenous community that needed strengthening.

"Our people have been suppressed a lot more than others," she said.

"You'll go up north and they are pretty free. Everyone knows who they are and you can see them.

"Down here we are very populated with Europeans. We have housing, infrastructure and everything is so amazing.

"Yes, we've had to adapt. We don't walk around without our clothes on any more. We don't go hunting…because we are not allowed to go on our land any more. We are separated from that.

"Yes, we are adapting but we still are the traditional owners of this country with rights, and those rights need to be upheld.

"Ipswich City Council has taken a first step with the Indigenous Land Use Agreement. I'd like to talk to Kerry about that even more because it is a daunting process. We are working with council to achieve something on behalf of Indigenous owners."



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