Linker Profile: Bernie Tierney - Making a difference in the Central West

A yarn with Bernie Tierney is full of many wonderful moments – always interesting, educational and often hilarious.

With his infectious laugh and smile it’s no surprise Bernie’s work as a Linker with the Orange Local Aboriginal Land Council is so effective and changing lives in rural towns across the vast Central West. From West Wyalong to Forbes, Condoblin to Orange, Bernie has a passion to support as many people as he can in their journey to live the life they want to lead.  

Like most Linkers in rural communities Bernie does a lot of travel, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Literally living around the corner from the house in West Wyalong where he was born 76 years ago Bernie is clearly a much-loved local personality.

We sat down over a coffee at a nearby café to talk about some of the solutions and challenges faced by those living in rural communities across the Central West with high unemployment, lack of opportunities and a drought that won’t quit.

You read it right, Bernie is 76 and as he told me, “he still loves working”. He started his working life in the outback town of Brewarrina as a teenager shearing sheep but being a “lefty”, he was shoved to the “end of the board” so he wouldn’t stab the predominantly right-handed shearers in their hand and this lead to him becoming a wool presser and other less back breaking roles.

It was the beginning of a long working life that has seen this proud Aboriginal man serve in Vietnam with the Australian Army (ADF), lecture at TAFE, work as an Institutional Corrective Services Liaison Officer organising TAFE course for prisoners, become the Head SES Controller in the area for 40 years (volunteer) and ultimately his work with Ability Links.

Discussing his work in the prison system it’s clear in terms of Aboriginal youth Bernie sees the driver for change being education and opportunities. Among the many great achievements Bernie has achieved has been connecting over 14 Aboriginal youth since November 2018 with the ADF so they can secure a trade and a more stable future.

It can’t be underestimated how important it is for people in rural and remote communities to have meaningful pathways and Bernie is an incredible facilitator of that pathway and others.  

Which brings us to Bernie’s other passion, which is his role with local radio station Gold 94.5 FM. Not only does it give Bernie a chance to play some of the thousands of songs he’s collected over the years, it also gives him a platform to talk to community about the work he’s doing locally connecting people to Ability Links and other services.

Some of the services Bernie is linking people into include financial counselling, NDIS

Bernie is one of those special people you meet in rural areas. Necessity often creates a colourful life and he’s certainly had one of those. He’s an inspiration and few people have packed as much into their life as Bernie.

Ability Links is blessed to have a Linker such as him.

To find out more about Orange Local Aboriginal Land Council’s Ability Links program contact (02) 6361 4742 or email Bernie directly on bernard.tierney@olalc.com.au