In 2008, we signed a Statement of Commitment and Reconciliation which recognised that:
- The original occupants of this land lived in the area for more than 40,000 years
- Aboriginal culture continues to strengthen and enrich the community
- People who occupy this area are from many different lands and share the values of tolerance and respect of one another
The Statement of Reconciliation and Commitment is as follows:
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council recognises that the original occupants and inhabitants of this land lived in the area for more than 40,000 years. There were a number of clans speaking several dialects and these people exercised traditional rights over the area including the ownership of sacred and significant sites.
The Birpai people relied on the sea and the land to provide much of their food and sustenance for life. Numerous middens are still found in the area giving recognition to the gathering of the traditional owners and inhabitants in this area. The establishment of European settlement has proved disastrous for the indigenous people who suffered attacks from settlers, exposure to new diseases and the loss of their land and disruption to their traditional way of life. The Port Macquarie Hastings Council’s Statement of Reconciliation and Commitment is built on the legacy of the traditional owners and the continuing contribution of the Birpai and other Aboriginal people to the local area.
In making this Statement of Reconciliation and Commitment Council wishes to acknowledge that it is built on the ideals set out in the Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation, the Road Map for Reconciliation and the Australian Local Government Association Statement of Commitment. Council acknowledges and gives recognition to the fact that this land and its waters were settled as colonies without any treaty or consent; that the Aboriginal people of the area are the first peoples here; and they have, as a result of the invasion, suffered deep loss and grief caused by disposition from traditional lands, the loss of lives and freedom and the forced removal of children. Council also acknowledges the rights of indigenous Australians to live according to their own beliefs and customs and gives due respect and recognition to the continuing customary laws, beliefs and traditions of the Aboriginal people of the area.
Council supports the peoples’ movement towards Reconciliation and seeks to give practical expression to this process through its actions. Council also supports working together in partnership with all sections of our community to ensure the principles of equity and access and human rights are provided for all members of the Aboriginal community through the provision of culturally appropriate services and programs.
As a local government authority, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council commits itself to:
- Ensuring local Aboriginal involvement in events and celebrations of significance that respect the dignity and protocols of the local Aboriginal community.
- The ongoing development of strategies to improve the level of participation of local Aboriginal people in local Government decision- making processes.
- Ensuring all staff is exposed to relevant education and cultural awareness programs to assist in their knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal cultural heritage and the needs of the Aboriginal community.
- Ensuring that an Aboriginal Employment Strategy is implemented, enhancing the prospects for Aboriginal people to be employed within the Council.
- Annually celebrating Reconciliation Week, NAIDOC Week and other events deemed appropriate by the Aboriginal community.
- Facilitating either a ‘Welcome to Country’ or performing an ‘Acknowledgement of Country’, as appropriate, at the commencement of formal Council meetings, Public Council forums and Council run Civic Functions.
- Flying the Aboriginal flag in front of Council’s Administrative buildings, in Council Chambers and other formal venues when the Australian & Council flags are displayed.
In making this Statement of Commitment and Reconciliation, Council acknowledges that the Aboriginal culture continues to strengthen and enrich our community and that people who are drawn from many different lands who share the values of tolerance and respect of one another now occupy the area. As a leader of the community, Council pledges itself to stop injustice and overcome disadvantage within its area of jurisdiction in an effort to bring about a local government area which is recognised for its valuing of the community and its history and in the provision of justice and equity for all.