ANSTO’s trusted advisor on Dharawal cultural heritage Les Bursill OAM has passed away suddenly following illness.
“We were greatly saddened to learn the news about our colleague and supporter Les Bursill. He was an impassioned advocate for the recognition of indigenous cultural heritage in Dharawal country,” said CEO Dr Adi Paterson.
“Les frequently performed the welcome to country address at our events, advised us on special projects like the Dharawal mural at ANSTO and assisted with negotiations in South Australia on the national waste management facility among other things,” said Paterson.
“The selection of the Dharawal word ‘nandin’ meaning meeting place was a recommendation from Les.”
“ANSTO has lost too many good friends this year,” said Paterson.
Les Bursill was committed to capturing the history of Dharawal people in the Southern Sydney area and working with other indigenous custodians to record the cultural record in rock art and artefacts.
He was an historian, archaeologist, anthropologist and publisher.
He is a co-author of a publication, “The Story of the Dharawal speaking people of Southern Sydney” published by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts with the cooperation of the Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation.
As a speaker of Dharawal, Les was keen to ensure the longevity of the language. His mother and her forebears came from the area between Kangaroo Valley and the coast near Nowra.
Les would often say that he was born just over the hill so he “belonged’ to this area really and truly.
Les produced a collection of Dharawal words, phrasesand tree names.
He is a former lecturer in mental health and counselling at the University of Sydney and was an adjunct lecturer at Charles Sturt University.
Les was awarded a Bachelor of Arts and a M aster of Letters in History and Archaeology at the University of New England.
Although he worked in various careers in his life, his passion and dedication to Dharawal culture and commitment to assisting indigenous persons in custody drove him to make lifelong contributions.
He was also a great facilitator in reconciling Australians with indigenous peoples.
“There is nothing he enjoyed more than a walk out into his country to try and find evidence of Dharawal culture,” said Karen Wolfe, who knew Les for many years.
“His spirit will remain in those places he helped preserve, including our mural,” said Wolfe.
There is a biography of Les here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Bursill *friend in Dharawal