A Sydney woman has been left “disheartened” after her local councillor shut down a request to incorporate an Acknowledgement to Country at Hills Shire Council meetings saying the ceremony “divides us more.”
Proud Darug woman Samantha Wylie, from Sydney’s Hills District, shared with HuffPost an email reply from Councillor Brooke Collins to another community member who had written to him suggesting council acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land prior to meetings.
Collins thanked the woman, known as Mikaela, for “the history lesson” and suggested the practise was not inclusive.
“I won’t single out one race we are all equal and what you suggest just divides us more!” he wrote, adding that perhaps English convicts from 1788 should also get an acknowledgment for “making our country what it is today.”
“You may want to find out where Indigenous people originated from and it wasn’t here in Australia they too turned up on our shores unannounced, however yes they were the first here, however they lived a very nomadic life, unlike the life you lead now,” he added.
“How do you know they didn’t wipe out another race when they arrived here 70,000 years ago.
“I can’t change what happened over 250 years let’s all move forward.
The comments shocked early childcare worker Wylie who, to celebrate Reconciliation Week, had set her community a challenge to request the local council acknowledge the traditional people, land and country at its meetings and events.
“The reply was horrible and even though the councillors account of history is incorrect even my 13-year-old understands the concept two wrongs don’t make a right,” she told HuffPost Australia.
“It is difficult to understand that in this day and age we have not progressed beyond these views. It’s disheartening as my children are part of this community and contribute to this community and they also have a deep connection with their culture.”
HuffPost has reached out to Councillor Collins for comment.
An Acknowledgement to Country is an opportunity for anyone to show respect for Traditional Owners and the continuing connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Country, according to the Reconciliation Week website. It can be given by both non-Indigenous people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is a sign of respect aimed to heal the scars of 250 years of intergenerational trauma brought on by systemic racism.
For Indigenous Australians, colonisation meant their sovereignty over the land was never recognised. It meant they were not acknowledged in the constitution and still aren’t. It meant murders, being pushed off their land, racism and institutionalising whole generations of children to ”breed out the colour.”
Even today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face more social, health and employment disadvantages than other Australians.
Now, Wylie has launched an online petition calling upon the Hills Shire Council to acknowledge Traditional Owners and “support our (Durag) children to grow up in a community that is inclusive of their culture and beliefs with pride.”
At the time of publishing Wylie’s petition has 1300 of the 1500 desired signatures.
Wylie stressed that more education of Indigenous history is needed in order to move forward.
“Our children are growing up in a world where they are very aware of how their culture is viewed,” she said.
This is where we need to start changing our ways to ensure that young Indigenous children from all over the country have pride and passion for their culture and are not afraid to speak up.”