Bello blessing an ideal start to NAIDOC Week

MORE than 100 people gathered with open hearts and minds at Bellingen Cemetery on Saturday to witness the blessing of the new Aboriginal Memorial.

The mayor, Cr Mark Troy, told the crowd the recognition of Aboriginal people buried in unmarked graves was another small step on the long journey of reconciliation.

"Modern Australia has embraced Aboriginal people, in the arts and sport, but our society remains diminished until all Aboriginal people on society's margins are part of the mainstream," Cr Troy said.

Recently-elected NSW Aboriginal Land Council councillor Tom Briggs commended the Bellingen Shire Council for its initiative.

"Some years back I came looking for my grandmother's grave," Mr Briggs said.

"The council had no record of where she was buried.

"That hurt because it meant I couldn't find her to talk to her spirit.

"Now the council is making this formal recognition of their Aboriginal history it is fitting."

Nambucca Shire councillor Martin Ballangarry said he came to pay tribute to Gumbaynggirr warriors and hoped his council would make a similar gesture in the future.

Being the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, he also speculated on the words of the national anthem.

"Advance Australia Fair how far have we advanced? How fair is this society?" Cr Ballangarry said.

Vietnam veteran Robin Bryant said in 1788 Aboriginal sovereignty was removed without consultation.

"In 2007 nothing much has changed," Mr Bryant said.

Following the blessing ceremony, which included a traditional smoking ritual to 'banish fear', the Gumbaynggirr Elders Choir sang.

For everyone the mood was one of sharing and Bellingen resident Jen St Clair said she felt proud to be part of a community that was actively honouring its indigenous history.

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