Mindaribba LALC CEO Tara Dever addresses Maitland 200 debate at Maitland Council

There has been a lot of hullabaloo in recent weeks about Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council not wanting Maitland Council to be involved in the Maitland 200 events.

That’s not right … let me explain.

Firstly, it was agreed in 2016 that Maitland Council would not lead bicentennial events until 2029 – 1829 being the year Maitland was officially named and the year previously celebrated by council. Due to some interest in early migration to the Wallis Plains area between 1801 and 1823, various community groups including Mindaribba formed a committee to hold a series of events. Maitland Council agreed to play a supporting role in those events put together by what is now the Maitland 200 committee. So when it was brought back onto the table last week for council to play a leading role in a bicentennial initiative this year, I was as shocked as anyone – after all, the Maitland 200 events kick off in a matter of weeks.

Now let’s make this clear – the Aboriginal community is not against 200 Years events. The Maitland 200 committee is made up of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, history groups and rotary clubs, a clothes museum and even a choir – people who can offer a wide perspective on our city’s history.

That brings me to my next point. The events we as a group have organised are about a holistic look at Maitland’s history. They’re about acknowledging different peoples who have lived in Maitland and played a part in making it the multicultural city it is today. Maitland 200 is about showcasing all citizens and the varying skills, journeys and stories that survive and influence us. It is a wonderful preamble to what the city will showcase in the 2029 bicentennial year. 

Unfortunately this seems at odds with the few people who appear heavily focused on the year 1818. For non-historians, that is the year a clutch of mostly convicts were provided lands along the river in a trial project to see if criminals could better themselves.

There were both Aboriginal and European peoples here before 1818 – so we feel there is no need to highlight pre and post European settlement. It is divisive. Community building and good leadership is about bringing the whole community together, not serving to divide. 

Finally, it was disappointing to have the Aboriginal community described by a councillor as a ‘minority interest group’ – I don’t have an interest in being Aboriginal. 

I am Aboriginal.

Tara Dever, Mindaribba LALC CEO