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Gunggari protest lack of involvement in Mitchell Bridge work

Gunggari people have set up a tent embassy beside the Maranoa Bridge works in Mitchell to protest their exclusion from the heritage work on the site.
Gunggari people have set up a tent embassy beside the Maranoa Bridge works in Mitchell to protest their exclusion from the heritage work on the site. Derek Barry

THE Gunggari people of Mitchell have set up a tent embassy protest site adjacent to the work for the new Mitchell road bridge.

Works have started on the foundations immediately south of the flood-damaged Sir Thomas Mitchell bridge with the new bridge expected to open mid-2013.

However the Gunggari people are angry they are not involved in the heritage works at the site.

Gunggari elder Aunty Lynette Nixon said their protest was not against the bridge work but the fact that the Department of Main Roads has only allowed Bidjera people to work as cultural heritage officers on the site.

"We mean no disrespect to the bridge workers," Aunty Lynette said.

"But Charleville is Bidgera country and Mitchell is Gunggari - it always was and always will be."

Aunty Lynette said the Gunggari had parked their claim for Mitchell land including the bridge reserve in 1998 to concentrate on a native title claim for land south and west of town.

"The Bidjera came along and put their claim on top of ours," Aunty Lynette said.

The Gunggari were successful in their initial native claim after a Federal Court ruling in Mitchell in June this year.

Now they plan to re-lodge their claim for lands around Mitchell in the Land Court on January 11, 2013 and they want to be involved in the bridge project.

"The Bidjera don't know where the sacred sites are, only we know that," Aunty Lynette said.

Fellow Gunggari elder Irene Ryder agreed there were sites they wanted to protect.

"I was here 16 years ago and I'm still here fighting for my people," Aunty Irene said.

"It's good that we all come here and support each other."

The Western Star has contacted the Department of Transport and Main Roads and a representative of the Bidjera People for comment.

Topics:  bidjera people, gunggari people, indigenous activities, mitchell bridge


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