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The NSW Government is committed to a 12-month consultation process with Aboriginal communities on their aspirations for a Treaty framework or other formal agreement making process, to be led by three dedicated Commissioners.

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NSW Steps Forward with First Aboriginal Languages Trust Board and Act Proclamation


Aboriginal Affairs NSW today confirmed the appointment of members to the inaugural Aboriginal Languages Trust Board and marked the proclamation of the Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 that commenced on 5 March 2020.

On 24 October 2017, NSW became the first Australian state to formally recognise, in legislation, the importance of Aboriginal Languages under the Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 (the Act).

A/Head of Aboriginal Affairs Lil Gordon said, “Our appointment of nine Aboriginal community language practitioners and leaders to the first Aboriginal Languages Trust Board, and the formal commencement of the Act are historic milestones in the NSW Government’s commitment to the wellbeing of Aboriginal communities.

“Each of the Members’ knowledge, skills and experience is exceeded only by their determination and passion to revitalising Aboriginal languages across the State, and they will play an important role in supporting the wellbeing of our NSW First Peoples,” she said.

Led by the Board’s Chairperson, Mr Jason Behrendt, the Board’s objective is to provide a focused, coordinated and sustained effort in relation to Aboriginal languages at local, regional and State levels.

“Mr Behrendt’s expertise and experience with governance and legislative implementation, as well as his dedication to language revitalisation will provide strong leadership for the Board to make a significant impact,” Ms Gordon said.

The Board members are:

  • Jason Behrendt (Chairperson)
  • Prof. Lindon Coombes
  • Patricia Ellis
  • Raymond Ingrey
  • Fiona Kelly
  • Dr Raymond Kelly
  • Dr Lynette Riley
  • Catherine Trindall
  • Clark Webb

All Board members will serve a term of five years to March 2025.

The Board sat for its first meeting this week, discussing strategic direction and business operations to implement the functions of the Trust as outlined in the Act. A key action for the Board includes the development of a five-year strategic plan within two years of the Act commencing.

With the Act now commenced, the Aboriginal Languages Trust can formally exist and Aboriginal communities will continue to be supported to reawaken, grow and nurture their languages.


Aboriginal Languages Trust Board – Member Biographies

Mr Jason Behrendt – Chairperson

Managing Director, Chalk and Behrendt, Lawyers and Consultants.

Mr Jason Behrendt will be the inaugural Chair of the Board. He is a Director of Chalk & Behrendt Lawyers, with an extensive career working with Aboriginal peoples across land rights, native title law and natural resources law.

Professor Lindon Coombes – Member

Industry Professor, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research, University of Technology, Sydney.

Professor Lindon Coombes is the co-Chair of Reconciliation NSW and an Industry Professor at the Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Ms Patricia Ellis – Member

Self-employed in her company Minga Aboriginal Cultural Services.

Ms Patricia Ellis is a respected Brinja-Yuin woman from Moruya and teacher of the Dhurga language, who has been teaching and advising on local Aboriginal culture for over 30 years. She is currently Chairperson of the Eurobodalla Shire Council Aboriginal Advisory Committee and has represented her community in many different capacities over the past three decades. Patricia along with her siblings Kerry Boyenga and Waine Donovan are the proud authors of the about to be published "Dhurga Dictionary and Learner's Grammar - A South East Coast NSW Aboriginal Language.”

Mr Ray Ingrey – Member

Chairman, Gujaga Foundation

Mr Ray Ingrey is a Dharawal man from the La Perouse Aboriginal community, where he is Deputy Chair of La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council, Chair of the La Perouse Aboriginal Community Alliance and Chair of the Gujaga Foundation leading language, culture and research activities in the La Perouse Aboriginal community. Ray has been involved in leading language reclamation activities for nearly 20 years.

Ms Fiona Kelly – Member

Executive Principal of Menindee Central School.

Ms Fiona Kelly is a teacher from Menindee, where she is Executive Principal at Menindee Central School. She sits on a number of education, language and community boards and committees, including the Menindee Community Working Party and the Menindee Local and Western 3 Regional AECG (Aboriginal Education Consultative Group).

Dr Raymond Kelly – Member

Deputy Head of School, The Wollotuka Institute, University of Newcastle.

Ray Kelly Snr was born and raised in Armidale NSW and is affiliated with several ‘First Peoples Groups’ including the Thangatti and Gumbayngirr peoples. He has lived in Newcastle for the past 40 years and has been actively involved in a broad array of community development programs and has served as consultant at Regional, State and National levels.

He is a scholar and practitioner working in the area of ‘First Peoples’ language and culture teaching. Ray has enjoyed a long career in the performance art area and uses these skills in his teaching approach. A driving passion for Ray is the development of research agendas that lead to community determination across all aspect of our cultural revitalisation – ‘For the people by the People’

Dr Lynette Riley – Member

Senior Lecturer, Sydney School of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney.

Dr Lynette Riley is a Wiradjuri and Gamilaroi woman from Dubbo and Moree. She has a career spanning more than 40 years in Aboriginal education across primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, and is a senior lecturer at Sydney University’s School of Education and Social Work. Dr Riley is passionate about language and its role in the social and economic empowerment of Aboriginal people.

Ms Catherine Trindall – Member

Gomeroi Murri Yinnar

Ms Catherine Trindall has had a distinguished career as an educator and is currently Chair of the Tamworth Aboriginal Medical Service and Life member of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Incorporated.

Mr Clark Webb – Member

CEO and founder of Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation.

Mr Clark Webb is a Gumbaynggirr man from Coffs Harbour, and is a passionate advocate for education and the preservation of language. He is the CEO of Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation, which supports young people to engage with language and culture through education. Mr Clark was also, until recently the Chair of the Galambila Aboriginal Health Service.

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