PORT Macquarie-Hastings Council will call for expressions of interest to re-established an Aboriginal Advisory Group.
Moves to reinvigorate the group first came after the 2020 Black Lives Matter marches and heated community discussion following a 4296-signature strong petition calling for the removal or relocation of the Edmund Barton statue currently situated on Town Green - an acknowledged Aboriginal burial site.
Councillors unanimously agreed in July 2020 to acknowledge that Birpai people are the traditional custodians and recognise while Edmund Barton's role in forging the Federation of Australian states is too acknowledged, it is incumbent on council to consider and respect Aboriginal history and identity in its decision making.
The petition also requested that in the spirit of genuine reconciliation, council move forward in partnership with the Birpai traditional owners to ensure that public spaces are culturally safe and reflect cultural inclusivity.
Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann, who consulted with both Aboriginal Lands Councils prior to that meeting, said respect and understanding must underpin a way forward.
Cr Intemann said there was a strong willingness from local Aboriginal leaders for all parties to work together more closely and was delighted moves are now being made to formally establish this.
The group will support on-going engagement with local Aboriginal stakeholders, to help strengthen relationships and to give the local Aboriginal community a voice within council to assist with decision making and reconciliation,
Council has engaged with members of Birpai Local Aboriginal Land Council, Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council, Bearlay Aboriginal Interagency, Hastings Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG), Werin Aboriginal Corporation Medical Clinic and Tribal Wave Assembly.
The group's charter aims use its representation to advise council on council projects and issues which support and affect the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community including council programs, services, projects and celebrations underpinned by respect and equality.
It will also assist council in the implementation, monitoring and review of council policies; and provide and receive two-way feedback from the community regarding issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage.
"It is my delight also to look back on the origins of this resolution which was last year when we had marches, Black Lives Matter, criticism of a certain statue on Town Green and it was my pleasure at that time to move us down this path so we could reinvigorate the Aboriginal Advisory Group and establish a strong rapport," Cr Intemann said.
- "This is where we make things right" - 400 join Black Lives Matter rally in Port Macquarie
- Petition for removal of Barton statue launched
- Barton's great-granddaughter wants unifying decision on statue
- Sir Edmund Barton statue considered tribute to a history of racist ideology
- Councillors support call for conversations
Mayor Peta Pinson said it is important to hear the views of local Aboriginal leaders.
"I have the absolute pleasure to be at so many events with leaders within the Aboriginal community - Aunty Rhonda, Uncle Bill, Uncle Amos, to name a few. Their dedication to community is that not only is their own community embraced and improved, but they are integrated into community as a whole," Cr Pinson said.
"Without an Aboriginal Advisory Group, council does not have the opportunity to seek broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community views and those views are on really important issues which affect their community in our region.
"I'm so grateful to be a part of this future group as the mayor. I believe that the heart of really true reconciliation is to work together with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community through the lens of unity.
"Our region has such a rich Aboriginal culture and I look forward to strengthening and uplifting the respect. And also supporting the truth telling of our elders and up coming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander future leaders.
"If our future leaders don't embrace the culture, the culture is lost."
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