Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Barunga West Council retains Acknowledgement of Country

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Michelle Daw, Yorke Peninsula Country Times

Nharranga Aboriginal Progress Association has welcomed the decision by Barunga West Council elected members to retain the Acknowledgement of Country.

In a five to three majority, councillors voted against a motion by Cr David Eason to remove the Acknowledgement from all council meetings and events.

Last February, council partnered with NAPA to establish the Nharangga Wambana Ngarga (knowledge group) to provide cultural advice about council projects including the Nharangga artwork at the upgraded Port Broughton Civic Square.

NAPA chairperson Michael Wanganeen said he is pleased the motion was defeated.

“The Acknowledgement is a sign of respect,” he said.

“The significance is that non-Aboriginal people are acknowledging this is Nharangga country.

“The same thing (Acknowledgement) happens at Copper Coast Council and Yorke Peninsula Council —it’s not out of step.

“It’s about Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people moving forward in the process of reconciliation.”

Mr Eason, a naturalised Australian who emigrated from the United Kingdom in 1956, presented a 41-page report in support of his motion.

“I feel the current wording of Acknowledgement of Country sends the message it is not my country, and we are actually subservient to three per cent of the population (Aboriginal people),” he said.

“I also respect the citizens and progeny of all the countries on Earth who have come to Australia over the past 236 years, bringing with them all the facets of their expertise to make this country the great nation we enjoy today.”

A former chief superintendent with the South Australia Police, Mr Eason said he has worked with Aboriginal people in the South East and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands.

“I acknowledge the hardships Aboriginals faced after the arrival of Captain Cook including the displacement from the land, the Stolen Generation and the desecration of some of their cultural sites,” he said.

“We shall now strive to build a stronger multi-racial democracy that reflects all Australians’ rights, heritage and beliefs.”

Cr Kim Gregory, who is general manager of Maralinga Tjarutja Incorporated and Oak Valley (Maralinga) Aboriginal Corporation, read a lengthy speech in response to the motion.

Ms Gregory said she consulted with NAPA and a number of ratepayers, all of whom did not want the motion to succeed.

She said the success of the motion could have been devastating to council’s relationships with Nharangga people.

“The Acknowledgement of Country is not overused by BWC, it is not used to be politically correct or in a tokenistic manner,” Ms Gregory said.

“The two sentences and 48 words that make up the BWC Acknowledgement of Country are brief.

“It does not give any indication Australia is not the country of any person, and it does not give any indication Australians are subservient to three per cent of the population.”

BWC chief executive Maree Wauchope said she welcomes the decision.

“We are dedicated to working alongside the Nharangga people and all community members to ensure our actions reflect our collective values and contribute to a harmonious and inclusive society,” she said.

Yorke Peninsula Country Times 20 February 2024

This article appeared in Yorke Peninsula Country Times, 20 February 2024.

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