National Australia Day Council's reconciliation acknowledgement passed by Nambucca Shire Council

Nambucca has made baby steps towards an approach of reconciliation on Australia Day.

The Australia Day Committee of Management (ADCM)—a group comprised of Nambucca Shire Council Citizen Award winners—met on October 16 to discuss proposed terms of reference for its 2019 Australia Day awards. 

One of those terms of reference was the inclusion of an acknowledgment in line with the National Australia Day Council’s Reconciliation Action Plan:

NADC believes that our national day should be authentic and mature where we can celebrate and mourn at the same time. We can honour all that is great about Australia and being Australian, remember the sufferings and our shortcomings and commit to build a more cohesive and inclusive nation. We do so with an underlying spirit of optimism.

The acknowledgment was a bridge too far for some in the ADCM and the resolution was made to leave the matter of its inclusion to council to decide.

Mayor Rhonda Hoban said at the last council meeting in Valla Beach that she personally had no problems with the acknowledgement and that it appeared to be treating Australia Day with the same reverential dichotomy that ANZAC day is.

“You can mourn and/or celebrate and this goes to making moves to recognise that mistakes were made in the past,” Cr Hoban said.

Cr Anne Smyth questioned whether the Aboriginal community had been consulted on the matter.

“The acknowledgement might run the risk of being offensive to people if you don’t have the recognition of an Aboriginal body,” Cr Smyth said.

Cr Janine Reed, a member of the ADCM, said the committee hadn’t yet done so.

The mayor then expressed concern that the decision of who in the local Indigenous community to consult might open up a “Pandora’s box”.

Council general manager Michael Coulter explained that there were some in the Indigenous community who would likely never recognise Australia Day.

“Although I have my personal beliefs on this, I’m loathe to do something that takes a step back from the reconciliation that this Valley has had,” Cr Hoban said.

In the past, when I first became mayor, we had a situation where elders wouldn’t meet or come into the council building because they saw it as a place where decisions were made for them without any consultation.

Cr David Jones expressed concern that the ADCM couldn’t decide for themselves to pass the recommendation.

“I’m not ok with accepting that we have an Australia Day committee that would not even entertain this recommendation, which is a pretty mild step towards reconciliation—it’s 2017!” Cr Jones said.

“We cannot back away from being proactive in confronting these challenges.”

Cr Susan Jenvey added that it would be ideal if the community could accept that a change of date was necessary for true reconciliation.

Mayor Hoban then advised Cr Jenvey that she was welcome to bring that motion to council if she wished to.

After a lengthy discussion the motion was passed to include the acknowledgement to respect the plurality of meanings of January 26 across the breadth of citizens in the Shire.