Local indigenous elders apologise to mayor
THE Gympie indigenous community has publicly condemned the actions of protesters at the centre of a violent fracas at the Gympie Regional Council offices last week.
Three elders representing the Gubbi Gubbi (Kabi Kabi) people, spoke to Mayor Mick Curran in the Upper Mary St office yesterday, to offer their heartfelt apologies for the way staff were treated after Gary Roy Tomlinson, 50, (aka Wit-Boooka) served them with an eviction order, jumped the counter and refused to leave last Tuesday.
The community, stretching from Gympie to Kilkivan, was represented by Aunty Olive (Bennet), the 78-year-old matriarch who lives at Jones Hill, a Kilkivan elder Wayne Croydon, who is a Queensland Rural Fire officer and Aunty Barb (Ferguson), from Gympie.
Auntie Olive has lived in Gympie most of her 78 years, while Mr Croydon moved to Kilkivan with his family in 1982 and Auntie Barb has lived in Gympie since 1989. All three have been and still are, heavily involved in the indigenous community through sport, schools and organisations.
“What rights does that man (Tomlinson) claim to have?,” an indignant Aunty Olive told the Gympie Times yesterday.
“Where did he come from? He hasn’t worked among our community on any indigenous organisations or helped in sporting?
“I was disgusted and incensed,” she said.
“We’ve all been here at least 30 years. I’ve been here all my life and I’ve never seen anything like it.
“If he has a legitimate claim, I’d like to hear it,” Aunty Olive said.
She also said Tomlinson did not know the law.
“Where there is a government building, or if it’s forestry, native title is null and void. Native title can not claim anything the government has built on,” she said.
Aunty Olive said Tomlinson obviously had his own agenda and it was nothing to do with local indigenous people.
“I’ve never heard of him. He was acting on his own behalf. Who gave his the authority to do what he did?”
Gympie Regional Council Mayor Mick Curran told them they had nothing to apologise for.
“We (the council) have a wonderful working relationship with Gubbi Gubbi people, and we want that relationship to continue well into the future,” he said.
“It was an unfortunate incident which should never have happened,” he said.
However, Cr Curran would not say anything to the Gympie Times about the fracas as it was “still before the courts”.
All three indigenous representatives said it was embarrassing and hoped the incident had not marred relationships in the community between “black and white”.
“My family is well respected and we’ve all lived quite happily without this rot,” Aunty Olive said.
“This could have been really damaging for us,” Mr Croydon said. “I was worried there would be repercussions in our community.”
“Yes. We want the people of Gympie to know this man did not represent us,” Aunty Barb said. “He made it look like all Aboriginal people are idiots and our community is not like that,” she said.