HOW was your NAIDOC Week?
Mine started early, on Saturday, with a visit to the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery.
First, I viewed videos and photographs by Wiradyuri artist Amala Groom, RE: Union, which portrayed deep grief and loss.
Next, the wonderful artwork of Birrunga Wiradyuri, a Wiradyuri artist who paints his personal Songline. These paintings have a powerful narrative of massacres and dispossession in the Bathurst area, and show a profound connection to the land.
Finally, I saw the work of Jock Alexander, whose paintings of Wahluu capture his love of the mountain, in its many uses.
From there I went to Tremain's Mill to meet up with the Save McPhillamy Park group, and find out more about their campaign to save this iconic Bathurst location from desecration.
To my surprise, Cr Graeme Hanger was there sharing his views, as though the council line needed more airing.
I was able to remind him that he had taught Aboriginal Studies in 2000, when he apparently had different views about Indigenous people's knowledge of culture and country.
I also discussed with Cr Hanger the council argument that since an archaeological study found no artefacts, the top of Wahluu is not of significance to the Wiradyuri people.
Absence is not proof - the top of the mountain has seen much activity over decades, including a clean sweep of any possible missiles after the riots, so it would have been more surprising to find visible artefacts on the surface.
The fact that there has been so much (ab)use of the mountain over many years by a variety of groups does not negate the claims of the Wiradyuri to this sacred space.
On Monday I viewed the video of the flag-raising on the council website, and was delighted to see the NAIDOC Week banner 'Always Was, Always Will Be'.
In his speech, mayor Bobby Bourke said "it is very important that we work together with the Aboriginal community ... NAIDOC Week brings us together to do that ... We have a good relationship with the Aboriginal part of the community".
How can the slim majority of Bathurst Regional councillors align this strong statement for collaboration with their rejection of the Wiradyuri elders' repeated statements that this land is sacred to them?
Respected educator Laurie Crawford in the NAIDOC Week video compared Indigenous views of the land to the concept of "mother", with all that represents, and his voice must be heard.
Councillors have a real opportunity to work together with the Wiradyuri elders, recognising this relationship to the land, rather than making tokenistic statements for NAIDOC Week.
Have we now returned to the situation where Indigenous people are allowed peaceful access to their ancestral land only if no-one else wants it?
Mid-week, I made a twilight visit with others to McPhillamy Park, reflecting in this tranquil place that has always been open and free. The huge impact that the proposed go-kart track, with its visual and aural disturbances, would have on this beautiful area was very clear.
And now, as NAIDOC Week concludes, we still have a divided council and community. Why are the five councillors and general manager not directing staff to seek another location for the track, one that does not trample on the rights of others to their spiritual practices and peaceful enjoyment of a natural environment?
'Always Was, Always Will Be'?
Empty words, Mr Mayor. Move the track.