Jaara Jaara elder Uncle Brien Nelson. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN

The life of highly esteemed Jaara Jaara elder Uncle Brien Nelson will be celebrated today at the Campbells Creek Community Centre.

His passing has been deeply felt by his family and the wider Jaara/Dja Dja Wurrung community.

Such was his commitment to the indigenous community, to reconciliation, to education, including to education at La Trobe’s Bendigo Campus, that in 2008 the Faculty of Humanities and
Social Sciences made Uncle Brien an Honourary Associate because of his lifetime contribution.

Uncle Brien was Chairman of the Jaara Jaara Aboriginal Cooperative and held many positions of responsibility in indigenous organisations concerned with land rights, economic development and community wellbeing.

He was the pre-eminent elder living on country, acted as a mentor and educator of younger indigenous people and was constantly involved in the work of preserving, recovering and passing on of his culture.

Among his many other achievements was his long-standing membership of the City of Greater Bendigo’s Reconciliation Working Party and the Castlemaine Reconciliation Group.

He was employed by Parks Victoria section of the Department of Sustainability and Environment for 15 years until his retirement in 2007. Among the positions and roles he played in this organisation were membership of the Indigenous Cultural Liaison Group and the Indigenous Management Team.

His service extended to civic life in central Victoria where he frequently performed the “Welcome to Country” ceremony at hundreds of civic and community occasions.

He spoke at countless meetings, Sorry Days and NAIDOC Week events.

His generous giving of time and friendly manner created an atmosphere of goodwill and mutual support between indigenous and non-indigenous people in the region.

Finally there was a quality about him. A quality of gentleness and great wisdom.

It was as though his love for the land was reciprocated.

Uncle Brien’s service will be held at the Campbells Creek Community Centre at 2.30pm today.

It will be open to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who wish to pay their respects.

By Dianne Dempsey