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Councillors condemned

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The decision of the Naracoorte-Lucindale Council to dump the prayer and “change” the acknowledgement from its council meeting procedures has been condemned and labelled as one that does not reflect the views of people in and outside the region.

Reconciliation South Australia says the decision of the six elected councillors who voted for this change reflects their “poor judgement” and a “lack of understanding”.

The chief executive officer, Jason Downs, told this newspaper [Naracoorte Community News] that a vote for the motion was a step backwards in fostering inclusivity in the community.

And Mr Downs has blamed mayor Patrick Ross for his “poor leadership” for bringing the recommendation before the council in the first place.

Mr Ross suggested at the council’s February 27 meeting that the monthly prayer and acknowledgement to the country be replaced with two simple lines: “We acknowledge and respect our complex history. We welcome everyone to build our future together”.

Cr Cameron Grundy moved his recommendation, Cr Tom Dennis seconded it, and Crs Crash Downward, Peter Ireland, Trevor Rayner, and Darren Turner voted in favour.

Against in the 6-4 vote were Crs Monique Crossling, Damien Ross, Abigail Goodman, and Craig McGuire.

“Mayor Ross indicated he wanted an Acknowledgement to be more inclusive of people in the region, and we support inclusivity. What the Mayor has done is appropriation of a First Nations protocol to suit his understanding of being inclusive at the expense of this protocol,” Mr Downs said.

He said the move by the elected members was a signal to the community that they had not understood the importance and relevance of Acknowledgement to Country.

“For First Nations people in the region, this demonstrates a lack of understanding by elected members and not only poor judgement but poor leadership in a region with a rich and extensive Aboriginal history and connection.

“I have heard from many Aboriginal people in the region who have shared their disappointment at the move.”

The CEO of South Australia’s premiere reconciliation body says those who voted for the change should have listened to other members who wanted to engage and have an informed discussion.

“They would have been wise to engage with First Nations people in the region and establish a relationship built on respect and trust before having discussions about the relevance and importance of Acknowledgement to the Country.

“I believe the decision of those who voted to change the Acknowledgement shows a lack of judgement and is a reflection on their understanding of the importance of Acknowledging country and seeing the bigger picture in terms of building genuine relationships with First Nations people in the region.

“I am not aware of the process the elected mayor undertook to gauge community sentiment, but I would have hoped there would have been some consideration given to the IAP2 engagement principles, which reflect best practices.”

Mr Downs claimed the decision by the six elected councillors could impact business, investment, and tourism in the region.

“As unfortunate as this issue is, we recognise that the decisions of the six elected councillors who voted for this do not reflect the views of people in and outside the region.

“We understand that there are many people who support reconciliation and actively promote better ways to engage, support, and promote First Nations people.

“It is disappointing that this issue has the potential to impact business, investment, and tourism in the region into the future.”

Mr Downs said they have extended, through social media and a formal email directly to the mayor and council, their willingness to engage and provide information to create a better understanding.

“As of this stage, we have yet to hear back.”

This newspaper [Naracoorte Community News] asked Mr Ross and the council to respond to the claims and comments made by Mr Downs.

“I’m interstate and will reply to Mr Downs on my return,” the mayor said in response to our request.

The Naracoorte News 13 March 2024

This article appeared in the Naracoorte Community News.

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