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The role of Elders

Spending time with Elders can help many Indigenous people to improve their sense of wellbeing and become positively connected to their history, Country and Dreaming Stories.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders play a crucial role in preserving traditional culture, sacred wisdom and lore, and have permission to disclose cultural knowledge and beliefs. Elders are those who have gained recognition within their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and are highly respected for their stories, art, song, language, guidance and counselling.

The GPTQ Board’s directive is that IHT team engage with Elders that have been nominated by affiliated Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) or the community.

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are warned that the following content may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

Uncle Wayne Fossey

Wayne Fossey was born in Gubbi Gubbi country located at Nambour. His father’s tribe is Gurang, north Gladstone and his mother’s tribe is Yugambeh, Gold Coast area. He is an Elder for Gold Coast and Hinterland areas, and also the University of Southern Queensland across Stanthorpe, Toowoomba, Ipswich and Springfield campuses, as well as chairing the University’s Elders and Valued Persons Advisory Committee which oversees research into Aboriginal Community Development in Toowoomba. Wayne is also the Vice President of the Bunya Peoples Aboriginal Corporation.

With a Masters in Environmental Science, Wayne’s passion for the landscrape he grew up in has never wavered. He helped to establish Ranger Stations in Toowoomba and the Bunya Mountains developing environmentally friendly tracks and re-introducing cultural fire burnings to protect the rainforest and native grasslands. He also initiated a program called ‘Dark Skies’ to keep artificial light to a minimum as vital activity for animals and plants takes place during darkness.

Wayne plays a key role in providing guidance on community issues in health and education, and highlights the importance for Registrars to understand the incredible diversity among the Aboriginal nations and the importance of being on Country as it is a healing force for Aboriginal people. He encourages Registrars to listen in their conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and allow time for them to tell their stories.

Cherbourg Elders

The Cherbourg Cultural Heritage precinct, 250 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, consists of the Ration Shed Museum, old Department of Native Affairs Superintendent’s office and the old boy’s dormitory of the original Barambah Aboriginal Settlement reservation established for Aboriginal peoples across Queensland who were horrifically and forcibly removed from their Country and families in the early 1900s in the application of Australia’s racist genocidal policies at the time.

Cherbourg is now a vibrant community led by a democratically elected Council. There is strong guidance given to many community led organisations by Elders. Those involved at the Ration Shed Museum are dedicated to  preserving their own culture and identity and inspiring the next generation of Indigenous children. Some of these Elders have been at the forefront of the creation of the precinct which links the past and the present, with the aim of increasing awareness about the past, and how it shaped the present. Cherbourg’s Elders continue to engage in community discussions with state and commonwealth government about treaty, social issues and reconciliation.

Uncle Colin Jones

Colin Jones was born in 1947 in Ipswich, Queensland, and is of kalkadoon and Nunuckle tribal descent. Colin’s Aboriginal name is Ko-Ro, which means wings of the Brolga. Colin teaches history and culture all over the world. He has taught at University of Honolulu and University of Hilo, Hawaii as well as Germany, France and England. He has also lectured at the UN. Colin plays a tremendous role in teaching and hosting cultural education programs for GPTQ and Carbal Medical Services as well as helping youths at Goori house, an addiction treatment centre in Queensland.

As a young boy, Colin learned to paint from his grandfather. The subject of Australian black history is near and dear to Colin and it is richly depicted in every painting he produces. His multi-layered dot paintings tell the stories of his ancestral lands where the rain forest, rivers and land connects, and are featured in art galleries across Australia.

Learn more about life as an Indigenous Elder