Bundjalung men Eli and Kris Cook.
Bundjalung men Eli and Kris Cook.

Bundjalung cultural centre could boost jobs for local mob

A COUPLE of Bundjalung men from Ballina are leading an effort to create a Bundjalung cultural centre.

Kris and Eli Cook and other Ballina Shire residents are working towards the creation of a not-for-profit, Burruugaa-Garaa Bundjalung Saltwater Centre.

Primary schoolteacher Eli Cook, 31, said the idea was to create jobs for Bundjalung people by showcasing their culture.

“We want to create a vision and direction for our children, while creating a point of reference for schools and tourism businesses to come and learn about the aboriginal culture in our area,” he said.

“We have a rich history that needs to be shared.”

Mr Cook dreamt on the long term of a complex that incorporated conference rooms, a performance studio, a museum area and library.

“We can be yet another fantastic place to visit on the North Coast, a tourism attraction to learn about Bundjalung nation,” he said.

The professional said he was currently discussing some possible support from council, while also searching for guidance from state and federal politicians.

“We are hoping to have a not-for-profit set up by the end of this year,” he explained.

“We met with mayor Wright and a couple of councillors, and try to get a lease on some land to develop the project.

“Once we have that we could look into possible grants.

“Prior to that we would like to establish a shop front in Ballina and generate some business, so we are self-reliant and stand on our two feet soon.

“We could offer tours, showcase local artists, school holiday programs and cultural awareness training for businesses.”

Ballina teacher and Bundjalung man Eli Cook.
Ballina teacher and Bundjalung man Eli Cook.

Mr Cook said immersive cultural experiences are available in places like Hawaii and New Zealand.

“They do this sort of stuff really well, while here in Australia we are 15 years behind at showcasing our indigenous culture,” he said.

“Creating jobs will enhance us socially and economically.

“There is not a lot of industries hiring Bundjalung people.

“We need Bundjalung businesses performing at a level where they can offer jobs for our people.

“Corporations and land councillors cannot offer many placements. The only way to break the cycle of poverty and social disengagement is to create opportunities and jobs, breaking the glass ceiling, it needs to be done,” he said.

To support the initiative, residents can support the change.org online project for a Bundjalung Cener for Ballina and sign up to their petition.