AN ABORIGINAL elder has been nominated for one of the state’s top honours for his work to restore the final resting place for Toomelah residents.
When the opportunity came up to restore a piece of history in his home town, Len Waters jumped at the chance.
The elder’s work in Toomelah has not gone unnoticed with Mr Waters nominated for a Premier’s Award for Public Service after the restoration of the mission’s cemetery.
One of four finalists in the Improving Government Services category, Mr Waters took on the project as an education leader at TAFE New England.
Together with TAFE, he worked with community members to expand the cemetery area, identifying unmarked graves and flood mitigation on the grounds.
A rest area, native plants and gravel road works in the cemetery area were also established through his work.
What makes it even more worthwhile he said, was community members who volunteered for the job received a Certificate II and III in Construction, Certificate II in civil construction and statement of attainment in first aid, weed spraying, reading GPS systems, working in confined spaces and WHS training.
He will join other nominees at the awards ceremony in Sydney on October 25.
“It’s good to get some recognition, especially for Toomelah,” he said.
“It’s been quite a lengthy project.
“For me, being born and bred in the community up there, it’s always nice to have it recognised.
“One of the big things about community spirit is being acknowledged for who you are and what you’ve done.”
Mr Waters said the project came about after TAFE approached the community and asked for suggestions on an initiative that would benefit residents.
“When we asked (what needed to be done) everybody said the cemetery, it was in a state of decay and disrepair,” he said.
“A lot of the old wooden crosses were falling over and some of them were rotted out. The headstones were painted without the names being put back on there. There was a lot of people lost there.”
Like many Toomelah community members, Mr Waters said he felt a spiritual connection with those buried at the mission cemetery and visits it when he returns.
“It is one of the places I automatically go to when I go back home,” he said.
“I go there and connect with my old people because they are very important people, full of wisdom, knowledge, culture, language and stories. The things that I know these days all come from the foundation of the older people back in those days, a lot of them are buried there, it’s one of those very important places – a spiritual place.”