Award salutes work caring for country

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianMidwest Times
Thomas Cameron and his wife Gillian Snowball with the national NAIDOC Caring for Country Award.
Camera IconThomas Cameron and his wife Gillian Snowball with the national NAIDOC Caring for Country Award. Credit: Supplied, Thomas Cameron

Thomas Cameron was part of the last generation of Australians to grow up in a dirt-floored humpy on a native reserve.

Last week he appeared in a dinner suit to receive the NAIDOC Caring for Country Award for the Littlewell Working Group he helped found to conserve the old community grounds.

Mr Cameron said many of his Wattandee people grew up on the 4ha Littlewell Reserve 1km south-east of Mingenew and they had to preserve the site for future generations.

“I’m a great-grandfather and I want my great-grandies to go back to country and enjoy it,” he said.

“It’s not about money; if that place got destroyed with development our spirit’s going to die.

“Our place of identity, our heritage, our culture and our language would be lost.”

They obtained support from the Shire of Mingenew, Lotterywest and indigenous community volunteers to preserve the old concrete foundations, establish walk trails and install interpretive signs.

“We didn’t ask for any money to drive from A to B,” Mr Cameron said.

“We’ve worked with the Mingenew Shire who were very supportive of our dream to tell people about the history of the Mingenew Aboriginal reserve.”

When the reserve closed in 1980, the Shire resumed it for a future industrial subdivision. However, nine years ago Mr Cameron was part of a group of former Littlewell residents who started working to restore the site to preserve local stories and cultural knowledge.

The Littlewell heritage site opened earlier this year.

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