Bourke local, Maxine Mackay, is dismissive when asked about her role in the decisions of the local community, but her influence is strong and clear, for all members of the community.
“I was born and bred in Bourke, but this isn’t my country. My mother is a Ngarrindjeri woman from the South East South Australia, and my father is Barkindji/Scottish. I’ve always acknowledged both the maternal and paternal lines”.
This is an important thing for Maxine to maintain, and it brings a balance and clear perspective to the roles she occupies. As the local president of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, and member of the Maranguka Tribal Council (as well as previous iterations of Councils), Maxine takes care to ensure that all voices are represented and heard.
“Consultation is the most important way of talking to Community. You need to understand ‘how’ to get around”.
In Maxine, this pragmatic realism and consideration for everyone is both coloured and informed by the deep cultural knowledge and sensitivity that was passed on through her mother. With this knowledge, there is more information readily available to help make decisions, if you know where to look.
“Mum’s Aunt could read the Willy Wagtail very well, and Mum could read his temperament. The Willy Wagtail is our message bird and the Pelican or ‘Nori’ is our totem. Other mobs see the Willy Wagtail as the death bird and will shoo it away. Family members who have passed would show themselves to my mother just after they pass or on the night of their funeral, just to let people know that they have passed on OK”.
Maxine maintains that it is important for everyone to be represented if the community is to work well. This may also be part of her mother’s inheritance as she can clearly remember the very reason she came to settle in Bourke.
“At the time my parents came to Bourke, after the war, my mother instantly knew she wanted to stay. It was the open, welcoming nature of the community that she had not found anywhere else in the country”.
With a clear vision for the future, that is still informed by the past, Maxine uses her voice in the community to pass on her mother’s legacy. A legacy that ensures that voices are heard, people are represented, and nobody gets ignored or left behind.
“Mum was very strong in her culture and wouldn’t back down from anybody…My philosophy is that you have to have transparency and sincerity at the table; doesn’t matter who we are working with, otherwise business can’t get done”.