BIRPAI elder Uncle Bill O’Brien has thanked the community after being awarded a Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia.
The Australia Day honour is in recognition for service to the Indigenous community of northern NSW.
“It comes back to the community and I just want to thank the community as a whole,” Uncle Bill said.
“It’s the community that makes a place and I believe this is the perfect place.
“I am very proud of the whole town.”
Uncle Bill said he had received a lot of support from within the town, the Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council and his family.
Uncle Bill is the Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council chairperson and a member since 1984.
He was involved in the establishment of an Indigenous Youth Group in partnership with the Australian Red Cross.
The youth group is particularly close to Uncle Bill’s heart.
The group, now funded by the Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council, is centred around culture, art and dance.
The environment is one of encouragement.
“I think it’s so important that we educate our kids,” Uncle Bill said.
“I believe that education of the young kids is a key to how young Aboriginal boys and girls are going to get a better way of life.”
Uncle Bill is involved in the community almost every day of the week.
Some days Uncle Bill delivers his Welcome to Country at back-to-back events, at times with his grandchildren in tow.
“The Welcome to Country to me is very special,” he said.
‘I believe it brings the community together.
“It’s welcoming to everybody, not just the people attending that particular event.
“They go home and tell their family members about it.”
Uncle Bill penned the words in 2006 and later added some local language.
The former jockey’s lengthy list of community involvement spans the fields of health, education from pre-school to university, sport, youth, respite day care and national parks.
He is a founding member of many community organisations.
Uncle Bill’s vision remains firmly focused on the community.
“I believe working with the community is very special, because sharing our culture gives a better understanding,” he said.
“It’s very important we share that culture and stop the misinformation that gets out.”
Uncle Bill recognised the support of family including his wife Marilyn.
“I’m still walking the track that was given to me, and as long as community and my family are involved in that pathway, I will be more than happy,” he said.
Uncle Bill was the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Citizen of the Year in 2008.