Local indigenous elder John Sandy Atkinson has been named on the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll.By Kathleen Tonini
Local Bangerang elder John Sandy Atkinson has been named on the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll.
Mr Atkinson was among 15 indigenous leaders who were named on the roll, joining 15 others who were named inaugural inductees last year.
Mr Atkinson is the vice-chairperson of Cummeragunja Land Council and helped to found the Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative and Medical Centre.
He was also the founder of the Bangerang Cultural Centre in Shepparton which houses artifacts and artworks from various Aboriginal communities.
Established in the 1980s, it was the first indigenous museum in Australia.
In the late 70s, Mr Atkinson was the chairman of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Arts Board of Australian Council and was also the first indigenous person to serve on a UNESCO committee.
He is also a trustee of the Koorie Heritage Trust and received an Australia Medal (AM) in 1983.
Mr Atkinson said he was proud of his achievements, particularly establishing the cultural centre and helping set up Rumbalara.
‘‘If you want your community to to go ahead, you’ve really got to get all those basic things working for you, and they do (at Rumbalara),’’ he said.
‘‘ I think that’s a great plus for our community in the Goulburn Valley.’’
Now living in Tatura with his wife of more than 50 years, Mr Atkinson, 80, said he was looking forward to writing his memoirs.
‘‘My experience in life has been too great not to write a book,’’ he said.
Born at Cummeragunja mission, Mr Atkinson is a now a father of five and grandfather and great-grandfather to many more.
‘‘I think the most important thing for me now is just to step back a little bit and let this generation do a little bit,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s nice now growing old and looking forward to some peace and quiet and so on.’’
This year’s inductees included activist Lady Gladys Nicholls (wife of Sir Doug Nicholls, who was inducted last year).
Yorta Yorta man William ‘Bill’ Onus (1906-1968) was also listed on the honour roll.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Jeannette Powell said the Indigenous Honour Roll would ensure Victorians could acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of past and present indigenous Victorians.
An independent panel which included Aboriginal community leaders provided recommendations for the Honour Roll to the Minister.
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