Marc Sutherland, the first Gomeroi person elected to Tamworth Regional Council, is a man with a mission.

He spoke with the National Indigenous Times after new councillor inductions on Wednesday.

“I have always been passionate about my community and I am fortunate that I have grown up in a community that my family has always been connected to,” he said.

“My father and mother are both proud Aboriginal people from the north west. Being part of our community since I was a young fella, I saw local government can have an important impact on the community; I saw it as the best way to create positive change for the community and for people living across the region.”

Cr Sutherland said it “means a lot” to be the first Gomeroi person to serve on the council.

“We are standing on the shoulders of giants. For me it was the hard work and the fight of my family and our families that have endured and persisted for generations. Now I am in a position to impact on our region.

“I am one generation removed from living on a dirt floor. My father was raised in a tin humpy with a dirt floor.

“To be elected to the council, I am the beneficiary of my family’s strength and resilience, which resides in us as the younger generation.

“It also means I have the responsibility to keep carrying the flame that was created by our old people.”

“We as a community are moving in the right direction in terms of the diversity of our community being represented in decision making. I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude and responsibility.”

Cr Sutherland’s top priority will drive the local government’s engagement with young people, continuing a lifetime of work.

“I am also the co-founder of the Gomeroi Dance Company. We started up here in Tamworth.

For me that organisation is centred around cultural education but also around supporting the young people.

My background professionally is in supporting young people. “I spent time in Melbourne with the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy before returning home and starting the Gomeroi Cultural Academy, a youth leadership program run by the Dance Company.”

He said that he would ensure the Council invests in young people “and that is in the strategic approach right across the community”.

“That has been a gap – strategic plans for supporting young people.”

Cr Sutherland said he would also work on “building and defining the relationship between local government and Aboriginal community here”.

“Building partnerships with community groups and organisations to make sure as a local government we are doing our best job to support Aboriginal community aspirations and self-determination.”

Tamworth Regional Council covers an area that is home to over 60,000 people living across 9,600 square kilometres in the New England region of New South Wales.

By Giovanni Torre