NAIDOC Week has been a great opportunity for councils across the nation to celebrate the links between our ancient past and our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures today which are one of the oldest cultures in the world – now that is something worth celebrating!
Many councils have taken the lead to actively engage with their local Indigenous and non-Indigenous community groups to organise a wide variety of NAIDOC Week events that have been enjoyed by locals young and old, from all walks of life. The focus has been on the rich contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples to our communities and regions. Through support of events such as NAIDOC Week, councils are demonstrating their commitment to creating an inclusive community, rich in understanding and appreciation of our diversity, and supporting the growing movement for meaningful reconciliation in Australia.
In keeping with this year’s NAIDOC Week theme, the events aimed to raise awareness of the essential role that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language plays in cultural identity. Originally there were more than 250 Indigenous language groups, but today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken so anything we can do to celebrate those that remain is terrific. Georges River Council held an Aboriginal Cultural Tour; Blacktown City Council held cultural workshops; Warrnambool City Council showcased traditional dance performances; and Cumberland Council held a morning tea and exhibition.
Just last month, our National General Assembly in Canberra welcomed our largest delegation of Indigenous elected officials. Together we explored how the Federal Government can more effectively engage with Indigenous elected councillors to improve outcomes in their local communities. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion, and senior members of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet had the opportunity to hear the concerns of our Indigenous elected members first hand.
As the Commonwealth moves forward with its new approach to Closing the Gap, ALGA will advocate at the highest levels of government, and at every opportunity we have, to ensure that Indigenous councillors are fully consulted in the process.
There is no doubt that their local knowledge, experience in local governance, and appreciation of how projects are best delivered on the ground has the potential to shape Commonwealth projects and programs to be more successful in the future.
Happy NAIDOC week to you and all your local brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, and elders everywhere!
Mayor David O’Loughlin