‘Deadly’ win for Gippsland

The brain child of a Morwell aboriginal elder has grown to become the region’s biggest indigenous conference and has gone on to take out a national award for promoting reconciliation.

The 2011 Deadly in Gippsland Conference saw hundreds of people converge in Sale last November for a broad showcase of achievements and initiatives by and for the region’s indigenous communities.

Announced last week, the National Local Government Award for Promoting Reconciliation was awarded to Wellington Shire for their work in building relationships between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Local aboriginal elder Esme Thompson, who was the initial driving force behind the first event held in Phillip Island in 2009, said the award was a proud reminder of how far the idea had evolved.

“It’s about getting in and showing ourselves and everyone else that we do have it in us to have these ideas and make these ideas happen,” Ms Thompson said.

Ms Thompson said the event succeeded in promoting reconciliation through its focus on positive outcomes.

“Rather than looking at the negative sides about what’s going in our lives, from one end of Gippsland to the other, and we need plenty more of that (positive) exposure around the place,” she said.

Ms Thompson said while there was a good range of localised initiatives across the region, the Deadly in Gippsland conferences were the first region-wide snapshot of the local achievements.

“It initially was really just a huge community gathering of our people coming down and sharing it with ourselves and the white population, but they are already looking at holding more conferences in other areas around the state, so we don’t know how big this will get.” Wellington Shire mayor Peter Clearly said it was wonderful to be recognised at a national level for all the hard work that went into organising the event.

“Council is extremely proud of the work our officers and our co-hosts, of the Sale Local Indigenous Network have done to promote reconciliation through ‘Deep Listening’, helping encourage communication and increased participation across our community,” Mr Clearly said.

“The positive atmosphere experienced by all participants is helping to strengthen partnerships across … the greater Gippsland community, and will continue to do so over the coming years.”

‘Deadly’ is a word used by indigenous communities to mean ‘really good’ or ‘great’.