Reconciliation in practice
At the third National General Assembly of the Australian Local Government Association, a Community Tolerance motion was passed unanimously affirming the commitment of Local Government throughout the country to reconciliation between Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians.
At Lismore, Council not only resolved to adopt the national statement but is endeavouring to give practical application to the statement in the local context.
With the stated intention of giving the Indigenous community an equal role in determining the strategies shaping the community's future, a number of undertakings are aimed specifically at increasing Aboriginal access to Council facilities and input to policy making.
Council employs two Aboriginal Community Development Workers. Warren Williams and Mitch Morris aim to ease and facilitate participation by the Indigenous community in local affairs.
Central to the development of stronger cultural harmony in the district is the Building Bundjalung Cultural Bridges Strategic Plan 1996/97.
Among the initiatives Council have undertaken are the setting up of an Aboriginal Advisory Committee, providing two way communication between Council and Indigenous groups; the permanent flying of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags at Council; and the provision of a regular meeting place for Bundjalung Aboriginal Elders in Council Chambers.
Council staff are being given cross cultural awareness training and Aboriginal people are being employed across general staff positions. Regular meetings now take place between the Mayor and Wiybal Clan Leader Fletcher Roberts.
In the community, more attention is being devoted to Aboriginal artists and themes. Council employed local artist Oral Roberts to paint its bollards, and the local art gallery regularly features Aboriginal artists. Aboriginal names are to be included on Council signage.
With Council's Childcare program, Aboriginal artists are helping to develop cultural understanding in the very young.
Taking a proactive approach, Council intends to use local media outlets to both provide information about Aboriginal heritage and feature stories which give a positive image to Aboriginal culture and heritage. Lismore is not avoiding the more difficult issues. In an inspired attempt to decrease the over representation of Indigenous people in Australian jails, usually for victimless crimes, Council is working to set up a 'Proclaimed Place'. This will provide 24 hour supervision for intoxicated persons.
At the National General Assembly last December, Deputy Mayor of Lismore, Ros Irwin and Mitch Morris gave a joint presentation on the Building Bundjalung Cultural Bridges Project. This has generated much interest from other Councils anxious to also contribute to mature relations between the two cultures.
For further information contact Anne Meagher, telephone (066) 250 599.