Marc Sutherland, the first Gomeroi person elected to Tamworth Regional Council. Courtesy of #MARC4TRC, 2022.
In January, the first Gomeroi Aboriginal person was ‘Sworn In’ as a Councillor for the Tamworth Regional Council. The Council covers an area home to over 60,000 people living in the New England region of New South Wales (NIT, 2022).
Wearing a traditional possum skin coat, Marc Sutherland marked the council’s first meeting of the year with a Welcome to Country, spoken in both his native language and English:
Sutherland (2022) commented in a press release that his Welcome to Country speech was “the first time our language had been spoken in the chambers and it will not be the last.”
"As a proud Gomeroi man I'd like to acknowledge the country I'm standing on and pay my respects to the Aboriginal people who have cared and always will care for this country."
When I say, 'dhirriaa yumbuli', I'm talking about the Old People and acknowledging the continual presence of our Old People and ask them to give us strength as we remember them.
I'd also like to acknowledge that sovereignty of this country has never been ceded and this always was and always will be Gomeroi country, and I'm looking forward to getting to work."
Marc Sutherland wearing his traditional cultural fur. Courtesy of Tamworth Regional Council, 2022.
The proud Gomeroi councillor (2022) explained in his speech to the council how much it means to be the first Gomeroi person to serve on the council:
“I have always been passionate about my community and I am fortunate that I have grown up in a community that my family has always been connected to.”
“...Being part of our community since I was a young fella, I saw local government can have an important impact on the community; I saw it as the best way to create positive change for the community and for people living across the region.”
Further, he paid homage to his family and the people in his community, whom have endured and persisted for generations:
“We are standing on the shoulders of giants. For me it was the hard work and the fight of my family and our families that have endured and persisted for generations. Now I am in a position to impact on our region.”
“I am one generation removed from living on a dirt floor. My father was raised in a tin humpy with a dirt floor.
To be elected to the council, I am the beneficiary of my family’s strength and resilience, which resides in us as the younger generation.”
So, what’s Sutherland’s top priority now that he’s a Councillor? With a professional background in supporting youth, Sutherland’s priorities will be aimed at driving the local government’s engagement with young people. This engagement will be centred around cultural education (NIT, 2022).
In an interview with NIT, Sutherland (2022) told the news platform about his professional work with youth:
“I spent time in Melbourne with the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy before returning home and starting the Gomeroi Cultural Academy, a youth leadership program run by the Dance Company.”
Sutherland founded Gomeroi Cultural Academy in 2018. Courtesy of Gomeroi Dance Academy, 2022.Councillor Sutherland said that he would ensure that the Council invests in young people through “Building partnerships with community groups and organisations to make sure as a local government we are doing our best job to support Aboriginal community aspirations and self-determination.”
We congratulate Marc Sutherland on this incredible achievement, as it is such an important milestone for the Gomeroi community to have a member of their own in Council. We hope that the number of influential Indigenous public figures going into council and parliament can continue to grow, and thus reflect our diverse population here in Australia.If you want to read more, check out our previous post about Dorinda Cox becoming WA’s First Indigenous Senator.