Council to acknowledge first Tasmanians

Former councillor James Graham making
the first Acknowledgement of Country at
a council meeting two years ago.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community as the traditional owners of the land occupied by the Derwent Valley Council will be made at monthly council meetings following a near-unanimous decision last month.

Following repeated requests by Molesworth woman Diane Cowburn for an Acknowledgement of Country* to be made at council meetings, a motion to that effect was put to last month’s council meeting by Cr Julie Triffett, seconded by Cr Rachel Power.

“There have been been calls in the past from ratepayers to include the Acknowledgement of Country in the agenda,” Cr Triffett said, adding that she had received a lot of support from the community since her proposal had been made public via the meeting agenda.

Cr Triffett said 4.6% of Derwent Valley residents identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent. “Last week was Naidoc Week, so now is the ideal time for this council to pay respect to the original owners of this land,” she said.

No other councillors spoke on the matter and there was no discussion of the wording of the acknowledgement. The agenda for tomorrow night’s monthly meeting includes the following statement for the mayor to read aloud: “I acknowledge and pay respect to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community as the traditional and original owners, and continuing custodians of this land on which we gather today and acknowledge and pay respect to Elders, past and present.”

When put to the vote the motion received near-unanimous support, with Cr Martyn Evans abstaining.

The organisation Common Ground describes an Acknowledgement of Country as “an opportunity to acknowledge, and pay respect, to the Traditional Owners and ongoing custodians of the land – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Acknowledgements are often made at the commencement of an event, such as a meeting, speech or formal occasion. An acknowledgement can be made by anybody, Indigenous or non-Indigenous. An Acknowledgement of Country will often highlight the unique position of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian culture and history.

“There are many variations of what can be said by the person undertaking the Acknowledgement of country. The following wording is appropriate to use, though many people create slight variations to create a more personal and individual acknowledgement: ‘We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.’ If you know the name of the group of Traditional Owners on the land on which you are meeting, you can acknowledge them directly.”

The first Acknowledgement of Country at at Derwent Valley Council meeting was in July 2017 when the then mayor Martyn Evans asked the then Cr James Graham to make a statement in recognition of Naidoc Week, the annual celebration of the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. At that time, Cr Graham paid tribute to the Big River people – the original Tasmanian Aboriginal residents of the Derwent Valley.

The monthly meeting for August will be held tomorrow, August 15, at 6pm in the New Norfolk Courthouse, Circle St. 

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