Re-establishing our First Nations Advisory Committee
As we continue our Reconciliation journey, Council is re-establishing its First Nations Adivsory Committee, to help advise Council on strategies, actions, activities and programs to help strengthen local First Nations communities.
Better education on 26 January key to respectful recognistion
Picking up on requests from the community, Council will be working with local First Nations people to develop and implement better education around the history of 26 January - and particularly their stories and their journey.
More than 4,000 residents provided comments on surveys, in workshops, and by way of a petition, during engagement over a number of months in 2021, in response to a request to understand community thinking around a more respectful way to acknowledge the day, which for some is controversial, painful and traumatic representing a day of mourning and sorry, and is for others a national day of celebration.
While there was strong support from those who engaged for Council to reconsider its approach, the overarching message from the community was that respectful acknowledgment needs to be about more than just one day, but a commitment to continue to engage, educate and inform around the wider issues and complexities.
This was also reinforced in follow-up deliberations requested by the community with First Nations Peoples as a way for those who may not be as aware of the background to this significant and increasingly mainstream issue, particularly with respect to the experiences of First Nations Peoples, to better understand the stories and appreciate their journey.
Along with promoting better community education more generally, First Nations people will be invited to participate in Citizenship Ceremonies to welcome new citizens and the Australian, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Island flags will continue to be lowered on 26 January which the Council will also acknowledge as a day of mourning for many First Nations people.
Endorsed Council Actions
What we heard
Council began a conversation with the community last October on how it should respond to 26 January going forward.
Questions included in the Annual Community Satisfaction Survey, were supported by a hard copy questionnaire sent to all households, a digital survey hosted on the engagement platform, meetings with Elders, and a series of workshops.
Results across all these activities demonstrated majority support for Council to acknowledge the experience of First Nations peoples on 'Australia Day', 26 January.
While this includes 80% of the more than 2,688 respondents to the hard copy and digital survey, the result was not as clear-cut from the 800 randomly selected residents who participated in the Annual Community Satisfaction Survey. While the majority were also in support, there was also a large number who did not express a view either way.
There was, however, a very clear commonality among supporters that liaison with First Nations was critical in this process and that "we listen to what their needs are to guide us in that acknowledgment."
There was also a strong desire not only for ongoing conversations but also for more education. Many respondents said they did not feel comfortable providing ideas or suggestions on what appropriate recognition might look like, without first understanding the issues and underlying factors that relate to the feelings of First Nations peoples on this day.
74% of all respondents across all forums believe Council should take action to acknowledge the experiences of First Nations Peoples on 26 January
68.5% of respondents across all forums support lowering the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags at Footscray Town Hall on 26 January
Those who engaged want to be more informed about the complexities around this date and better understand the stories and journeys of our First Nations Peoples
Respondents believe respectful acknowledgement is about more than just one day - and wanted a commitment to continue to engage, educate and inform about the wider issues and complexities.