President’s column

You know what it’s like in local government – unless you acknowledge a complainant’s issues, and take responsibility for how you’ve managed the complaint, good or bad, it’s difficult to agree a way forward.

It’s the same with the child abuse inquiry, and the upcoming aged care inquiry. So too it must be with our collective reconciliation and healing journey.

This is according to Reconciliation Australia and The Healing Foundation, which held a Truth Telling Symposium that I attended this week. The aim of the symposium was to explore processes of truth telling and how they can support healing and progress on reconciliation.

The symposium heard from international and local experts and stakeholders on what approaches and processes might be taken forward. The key takeaway was that establishing a truth telling commission could be an avenue by which the nation could gain a full – and some would say more honest – understanding of colonisation, dispossession, sickness, forced removal and the trauma that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were subjected to in the years that followed. And, disturbingly, it’s not over. There are now twice as many Indigenous kids in care as there were when Kevin Rudd made the national apology for the Stolen Generation.

Participants also shared knowledge and experiences of how individuals and communities can best be supported to safely and respectfully explore truth-telling initiatives, in a way similar to how child abuse victims were provided a safe place and process to make their statements and to have them acknowledged and recorded.

At the local level, we can support these initiatives by thinking about the answers to these questions:

  • Why is truth telling important for Australia and our community in particular?
  • What are the truths that need to be told?
  • What has to be achieved for our community to play its role in truth telling?
  • What would truth telling look like for our community?
  • What actions would we want to happen as a result of truth telling?

When people who have survived trauma share their story, the way that story is received – particularly by people in positions of authority – can have a profound impact on their healing journey.

I look forward to hearing from the Healing Foundation about the role councils and leaders in local government can play to be part of the process.


Mayor David O’Loughlin

 ALGA President