A new bridge on the Pacific Highway over the Kalang River at Urunga has been named Uncle Tom Kelly Bridge after a respected Aboriginal Elder from the region.

Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Melinda Pavey said the bridge has been named in honour of a Gumbaynggirr Elder, Uncle Tom Kelly, and acknowledges the Gumbaynggirr people as the traditional custodians of the land.

“The Coffs Harbour and District Local Aboriginal Land Council requested to name the bridge in honour of Uncle Tom Kelly and I am pleased the request has been well received by the community and that it recognises and pays respects to the Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal Elder,” Mrs Pavey said.

“The naming of the bridge is a fitting tribute to a gentleman who grew up in the area, gave so much to the local community and left an honourable legacy.

“Uncle Tom Kelly was born at Corindi and grew up on the Kalang River. He worked on a dairy farm for 20 years before joining the Bellingen Shire Council where he was an employee for 39 years.”

Mrs Pavey said Uncle Tom Kelly was an active member of the community, in particular dedicating his time to creating opportunities in education and the arts for children. He was the founder and advocate of Camp Creative, and initiated a scholarship program for the local Gumbaynggirr children.”

“Uncle Tom Kelly also made a significant contribution to the Bellingen and Coffs music scene, he played in many local bands, taught, composed, wrote and recorded music and he also encouraged many younger community members to play music,” Mrs Pavey said.

“The annual Uncle Tom’s Jam – A Session to Remember, named in his honour, is held at Woolgoolga each year and celebrates the lives of indigenous musicians.

“Uncle Tom Kelly in partnership with Aunty Marg Boney also played a vital part in pulling the aboriginal heritage interpretative sign together along the Urunga boardwalk.”

The Uncle Tom Kelly Bridge over the Urunga River, pictured below, forms part of the $780 million Nambucca Heads-to-Urunga Pacific Highway upgrade.