Jeanette Crew has been honoured for her lifetime contribution to Aboriginal culture in NSW.
Mrs Crew, who is the Chair of the Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre in Deniliquin, was recognised as part of the 2017 IMAGinE awards, which honour best practice education programs, outreach projects, exhibitions, collection management projects and the achievements of individuals.
The Deniliquin Elder said she was surprised to be acknowledged for her contribution as she always saw her work as being for the benefit of the community. She said it was a humbling experience but it was nice to be recognised.
Born in Swan Hill, Mrs Crew is the daughter of Laura and Neil (Rusty) Ross and spent her early years on Moonahcullah, an Aboriginal Mission outside of Deniliquin, until the community was forcibly moved into Deniliquin in 1961.
She was supported in her schooling by the Deniliquin Lions Club and later by four women from the local community — Sylvia Baker, Molly Daniels, June Fisher and Betty Tunny. Sylvia Baker in particular became a life-long friend and mentor.
Mrs Crew broke new ground in many areas of her career, from her role as the first Aboriginal Women’s Cultural Heritage Sites Officer in the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Sydney, to her success as the first coordinator of the Deniliquin Local Aboriginal Land Council. She served on the Aboriginal Advisory Committee to various organisations including the National Museum in Canberra and the Australian Museum and National Maritime Museum in Sydney.
In the late 1980s she was a member of the NSW Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal heritage and culture.
One of Mrs Crew’s major achievements, however, was her work in establishing Yarkuwa which has been operating since 2003.
‘‘Yarkuwa exists to collate and maintain traditional knowledge, to act as a base for community development and to provide an education service to the wider community,’’ Mrs Crew said.
‘‘Yarkuwa negotiates with government and other agencies on matters relating to culture, heritage, community wellbeing and the environment.’’
Through Yarkuwa and through her involvement in forming the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations, Mrs Crew has worked throughout her career to build connections between local communities and government.
She was instrumental in the repatriation and reburial of ancestral remains previously held in the National Museum of Australia, National Parks and Wildlife, Office of Environment and Heritage and the University of Sydney, a campaign she was involved with for 17 years.
In 1982, she received a NSW Public Service Prestigious Award and in the same year received a Deniliquin Council Civic Award.
Locally, Mrs Crew is still a keen weaver and has been central to the tradition’s revival in the Deniliquin region, weaving with and teaching Elders, peers and young people.
Mrs Crew retired from the NSW Public Service in 2012 but has returned to work as a Local Landcare Coordinator. She is the only current Aboriginal Landcare Coordinator in NSW and aims to embed Aboriginal cultural values within Natural Resource Management work.
She is also seeking ways of incorporating Aboriginal culture within government and non-government services and to create a strong cultural identity in future generations.
Mrs Crew accepted her IMAGinE award at a function held in Sydney.