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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) presentation 15 August 2023

A Better Eurobodalla (ABE) presentation to

Eurobodalla Shire Council public forum

on CAR23/012 Aboriginal Advisory Committee Recommendation

15 August 2023

I am presenting today as the Co-convenor of A Better Eurobodalla (ABE), a community forum working to achieve open, accountable and responsive government in Eurobodalla.

ABE has applied our principles of good governance to the following Aboriginal Advisory Committee Recommendation (ESC CAR23/012):

‘We the members of the Aboriginal Advisory Committee recommend that the Eurobodalla Shire Council supports a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. Also, that the Council advises all residents of Eurobodalla Shire about this decision and advertises this decision in signs on the council’s properties’.

The governance aspects that I will discuss this morning relate to

· the role of the ESC Aboriginal Advisory Committee and its relationship with council, and

· the role of local government in relation to national or federal issues.

As background, the statement by the nine chief ministers of Australia supporting the constitutionally enshrined voice to Parliament, noted the following principles put forward by the referendum working group for the Voice, that it:

· provides independent advice to the parliament and government

· is chosen by First Nations people based on the wishes of local communities

· is representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

· Is empowering, community-led, inclusive, respectful, culturally informed and gender balanced and includes youth

· is accountable and transparent

· works alongside existing organisations and traditional structures

· does not have a program delivery function and

· does not have a veto power.

The Eurobodalla Shire Council Aboriginal Advisory Committee is one of the seven advisory committees to council. Its Terms of Reference include that:

‘The role of the committee is to promote Aboriginal Culture within the Eurobodalla Shire and to advise and make recommendations to Council on matters relating to Aboriginal people.’

The Objectives of the Committee include ‘To advise and liaise with Council regarding issues impacting on local Aboriginal communities’.

In August 2018 the Australian Local Government Association made a Submission to the Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Peoples.

That submission included that

‘Local governments across Australia are very supportive of constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. At the National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA) held in June this year over 800 representatives of local governments voted on motions of national importance to local governments. One of these motions was that the National General Assembly endorses the constitutional acknowledgement of Indigenous Australians as the first peoples of this land.’

These statements and positions firmly place this issue in the realm of local government across Australia.

More recently at the ALGA June 2023 meeting attended by our Mayor, the resolution (Motion number 95) was carried that:

‘This National General Assembly acknowledges the Australian Government’s support of constitutional recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders through a Voice to Parliament and recognises what the Uluru Statement and the Voice to Parliament will mean for Australia's First Nations peoples and the broader Australian community.’

Arguments put against local government taking a position on the Voice include that this is a political issue and that it is a federal issue and therefore not the business of local government.

Whether it is liked by individuals or not, local government is part of the political domain. People stand to be elected on positions that they take publicly, whether they are part of a recognised political party or as independents. They are voted in to represent their constituents. This is political.

Somewhat ironically this issue of the Voice to Parliament sits more comfortably outside traditional political processes. As we know it comes from the Uluru Statement from the Heart – a non-partisan document. While there has been opportunistic politicisation of the Voice, it has not emerged from a political party but from Australia’s First Nations peoples.

In Eurobodalla, and particularly in this place, the First Nation’s voice comes through the Aboriginal Advisory Committee. That message to Council is to support a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament

Twelve months ago, on 26 August 2022 Mayor Hatcher gave us some very relevant words. I quote:

‘Some members of the community want us to have an opinion and stand up to advocate strongly, while others think we should stay in our lane and just deal in roads, rates, and rubbish. A quick look around local social media makes this contrast clear.

The councillors and I were elected as advocates to the Council on behalf of community. But we also see our role involves lobbying the state and federal government on issues you want to see changed. I believe our Council is more than roads, rates, and rubbish.

When there’s a housing crisis, when there’s potholes on the Princes Highway and when someone wants a speed limit lowered, we are contacted. We are looked to when everything goes wrong and asked to fix things even if it’s not something that local councils do. Just because it’s not something we do, doesn’t mean we can’t fight for it to happen.

I believe it’s my role, and that of Council, to show leadership on issues beyond local government. Anywhere there’s an opportunity to make life better for our residents, we should and will step in.

Our advocacy shines a light on state and federal issues.’

In recent times the local government sector has made resolutions to Australian Government on matters including:

climate change and adaptation; transition to net zero; coastal adaptation planning; housing and emergency response and resilience.

So, to engage in and impact on national or federal issues is an intrinsic and important role of local government as the level of government closest to the people who it serves.

In December 2022 thirty-eight mayors from across Australia issued a joint statement in support of the upcoming referendum for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians. That statement included that:

‘Local government must play an important role in holding civic forums, promoting dialogue, and providing a platform for Indigenous voices to be heard in the debate. We believe that a successful referendum can be a unifying achievement for Australia.’

In Eurobodalla, the 2466 people who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders in the 2021 census represent 6.1% of our population, compared to 3.4% across NSW and 3.2% across Australia.

From the ESC Aboriginal Action Plan 2020-2024

‘Council acknowledges, respects and works with the traditional custodians of the land, and sees our relationship with Aboriginal people as an important step in building community strength and resilience. The benefits of strong relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people include: • mutual understanding of the culture and heritage • building trust between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people • increased sense of wellbeing and community resilience • acknowledgement and healing of past traumas • collaboration and meaningful interactions for consultation, and • nurturing future relationships.’

This resolution gives this council the opportunity to live up to those goals.

Bernie O’Neil


A Better Eurobodalla

15 August 2023


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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