ABORIGINAL reconciliation has been de-prioritised by Bayswater council.
Many of the initiatives in the council’s Reconciliation Action Plan have been mothballed this year as councillors look to save money.
RAPs are intended to improve relations with Aboriginal people and include actions like giving staff cultural training, hiring Aboriginal people and using Aboriginal-owned businesses.
Bayswater councillors flagged a budget of $161,000 for a suite of projects this year when they adopted the RAP in January this year, including hiring a new Aboriginal reconciliation liaison officer on a 12-month contract.
But during behind-closed-doors workshops for the council’s 2019-20 budget, where there are no minutes, that job was scrapped and the role will instead be shared by existing staff, while the budget was gutted to just $26,500.
While providing a long answer about the transparency and robustness of its budget process, the council didn’t directly answer the Voice’s questions on who had proposed the slow-version RAP.
On the path
Mayor Dan Bull noted the delay at the May 14 council meeting: “What is important is that we are on the path of reconciliation … if it seems a bit slower than we like, that’s okay, as long as we tread our journey of reconciliation,” he said.
The extent of the delays were revealed this week with a revised RAP showing many of the items shunted to 2020-2021.
• Co-naming city buildings and places, and naming new buildings and places with Noongar-only names;
• Improving engagement with Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders;
• Creating a target percentage for hiring Indigenous employees;
• Holding “yarning sessions” with the Aboriginal community and inviting them to city events;
• Bringing in elders to tell stories about the area’s Aboriginal history;
• Installing culturally appropriate artworks in public spaces to make them more welcoming to Aboriginal people; and,
• Using at least 3 per cent Aboriginal-owned businesses.
Reconciliation Australia, the peak body helping organisations get their RAPs together, diplomatically told the city a “12 month timeframe is preferred” but they understood the delays if there was “limited capacity” of an organisation to deliver it.
The revised RAP goes to councillors for a vote at the September 3 meeting.
by DAVID BELL