'White Australia needs to know it has a very black history'
PIERCING insults like "dirty" and "black" were flung at Mandy Bahr during precious childhood years. Her parents were part of the Stolen Generation, breeding a fear history would repeat itself.
School textbooks insisted Captain Cook discovered Australia, but she knew indigenous people walked this land long before he did.
But her pride in her indigenous heritage never wavered and she has since discovered the vast and incredible capabilities of indigenous people.
Many of the stories Australians would never have heard, but interest in uncovering them is on the rise.
Ms Bahr said explorers Burke and Wills would have died of scurvy if it wasn't for indigenous people giving them vitamin C, while sophisticated fencing was developed to contain horses.
"White Australia needs to know it has a very black history," Ms Bahr said.
"There's still a lot more to learn, how people survived all those years and lived healthy lives. "Now indigenous people have (high) blood pressure, bad eyesight."
Ms Bahr said there was a perception indigenous people were given everything, but it was not the case.
"You don't have alcohol and drug problems because you had a good life," she said.
"When you get low self-esteem you don't look after yourself."
Living in Warwick for 42 years, Ms Bahr grew up near Goondiwindi on Gomeroi land.
She is the chairwoman for the Waringh Waringh committee, who recently organised the Bunya Festival at Maryvale.
Ms Bahr said many did not know the damage done by the Stolen Generation but there was also uplifting history in the Southern Downs many would be surprised to learn.
Our region is abundant in sacred sites, including healing springs, a birthing place and hot springs, she said.
"It's our history, it shows we do have a black history and a very relevant black history. It shows there was a lot of activity," Ms Bahr said.
Acceptance is making headway, with Ms Bahr saying people are more interested in learning and understanding indigenous culture, as was evident by the hundreds who visited the Bunya Festival.
As the police liaison officer at Warwick Police Station, Ms Bahr said she hoped she was making a difference and her acceptance made her proud to be Aboriginal.
She hopes to see more opportunities for young indigenous people in the region, especially those with creative talents like singing.
"They haven't got the self esteem but you build it with people encouraging you," she said.
Through events such as the Bunya Festival and NAIDOC Week activities, Ms Bahr hopes to continue breaking down barriers between indigenous and non-indigenous people.
"We're trying our hardest to show how proud we are of our history," she said.
"When people understand we all treat each other better."