Council drop Acknowledgment of Country

Naracoorte Lucindale Mayor Patrick Ross put forward a change to the Acknowledgment of Country.

Elisabeth Champion

The Naracoorte Lucindale Council has scrapped its prayer and Acknowledgment of Country, opting for a simpler welcome at meetings.

At February’s meeting, mayor Patrick Ross put forward suggested changes to the Code of Practice for Council and Committee Meeting Procedures.

Suggestions included replacing the prayer and the Acknowledgement of Country with a two-line welcome, that elected members’ reports be written, including the mayors, that questions without notice not be accepted from the floor by the mayor or presiding member and that councillors must speak to a motion when moving or seconding it.

Mr Ross said the welcome should be “simple”.

“The welcome I see as being a simple welcome, and I had this discussion around the local government handbook on these matters,” he said.

“As I explained within the text, a welcome can be a simple thing, like a welcome.

“It could be a pledge, or it could be anything you want it to be and as I explained, I think a welcome should be a simple, inclusive statement for us, as we move forward.”

Mr Ross suspended meeting procedures to discuss the matter.

Councillor Abigail Goodman said the suggested wording did not reflect the council or its values.

“I agree a prayer and the acknowledgement in their forms no longer adequately reflect our council area, our business activities or our people in community and updating them could be a good and unifying exercise,” she said.

“However, I am concerned at the suggestion that we remove them to replace them with a single sentence that I don’t feel reflects both our rich history or speaks to how we realise our opportunities for the future.”

She said the acknowledgment should be crafted into something unique to the council.

“An acknowledgement of country is an adaptation of a Welcome to Country which is a tradition that is practised by the oldest continuous living culture on our planet, which is a First Nations people in Australia,” she said.

“It’s become widely used as a reconciliation practice and it’s been helpful in increasing awareness and understanding of First Nations people of our area, but it has become a standardised and formulaic statement that many people feel has become a tick box exercise.

“I mean, 100 per cent, if you use it in a tick box way, that’s exactly what it is, but it has the power to be so much more than that.”

She said it provided an opportunity to celebrate the Naracoorte Lucindale Council area.

“It provides us the opportunity to recognise our role in managing and caring for the country, to understand our history, and the way that we make decisions and look after it and look to the future, and it provides us the opportunity to include and recognise people who have lived here, who do really care, and who continue to look after this country and each other,” she said.

“It does upset me when the community and more broadly, I hear people say that acknowledgments are exclusive or divisive, because this is the exact opposite of the tradition that this originated from – it’s actually a unifying custom from our First Nations people, that celebrates this land that is unique to our place, and can’t be represented anywhere else.”

“It is, in its traditional sense, a reminder of protocols and rules of the land, and that, again, if we are brave enough to individualise it, those of our council area.

“All of those things are exactly the things that council is here to do and so we should be embracing that, and accepting the challenge of crafting an environment that is representative of our unique and special place and country, the people who have cared and nurtured it and those who continue to do so, and the aspirations of our community.

“I hope that the council does take that challenge on, and that we retain an acknowledgement that reflects our history, our future, our people and place.”

Ms Goodman moved a motion that the council hold a workshop to discuss a pledge and acknowledgement that is representative of the Naracoorte Lucindale area, but the motion was lost.

Speaking in favour of the change was councillor Peter Ireland.

“As far as that prayer and Acknowledgement of Country goes, for the last four months I’ve been thinking that it is missing out quite a lot of information that we need and I believe, contrary to councillor Goodman, It is quite divisive in a way,” he said.

“I mean, we’ve got an absence of recognition of those who defended their country, and the forebears of the fantastic nation that exists today.

”I just think we don’t need to be stating it every meeting, we don’t need to have it any more drawn out at this point, so I think simplifying some of those, as you put down in the agenda, is the right direction.”

Also voting for the change was councillor Andrew Downward.

“To me, I just like to also say that I’m more than in favour of the proposed change,” he said.

“It’s quite succinctly what it says – it’s short, sharp, to the point, and acknowledges the complex history of the region and what will be in the future without having to have a diatribe.

Councillor Monique Crossling moved a motion that the matter be laid on the table, but the motion was lost.

Councillor Cameron Grundy moved the council adopt the Welcome as presented in the agenda.

Councillors Tom Dennis, Darren Turner, Trevor Rayner, Cr Grundy, Cr Downward and Cr Ireland all voted in the affirmative and councillors Craig Maguire, Damien Ross, Cr Crossling and Cr Goodman voted against.

The amended policy, with the other suggested changes will be brought to a later meeting to be voted on.

The welcome will now be- “We acknowledge and respect our complex history. We welcome everyone to build our future together.”