VINCENT council will force all events that get council funding or sponsorship to hold Aboriginal welcome to country or acknowledgement of country ceremonies, and provide opportunities to fly the Aboriginal flag.
At its June meeting, the council approved a revised Protocols for Acknowledgement of Country and Welcome to Country to Recognise Aboriginal Culture and History policy for 21 days public consultation that include the prescriptive new measures.
Mayor Emma Cole says changes to the policy, most of which are minor amendments to terminology ”play a vital part in our community in recognising and acknowledging the traditional owners of the Noongar nation”.
But the WA Opposition isn’t impressed, with Aboriginal Affairs shadow Kyran O’Donnell telling the Voice he’d much prefer welcome to countries to be voluntary.
“Let people just do it because they want to, otherwise you risk that they do it without sincerity,” Mr O’Donnell said.
“They’re not saying ‘do it with vigour and keenness’ – or is that the next policy revision.
“They’re also identifying when you should do welcome to countries, so now they’re making lists.”
Mr O’Donnell, a former Kalgoorlie councillor said he was a big fan of recognition ceremonies and likes how they’ve become a part of life. He says genuine acts like Kalgoorlie erecting an extra 13-metre flagpole to fly the Aboriginal and Australia flags together can be powerful reconciliation symbols.
Ms Cole says Noongars occupied and cared for the South West for many tens of thousands of years before colonisation and were the traditional owners.
“We are tweaking a few things to be sure the way we acknowledge country is culturally considerate,” she told the Voice.
Other changes include replacing the word “indigenous” throughout the document to “Aboriginal”, and “custodian” to “traditional owners”, while the policy itself will be renamed to include the term “Noongar boodjar” which translates as “Noongar land”.
The changes were developed with the council’s Reconciliation Action Plan working group.
by MOLLY SCHMIDT
and STEVE GRANT