Focus in Koori needs in reconciliation plan

AN Aboriginal elder has welcomed a reconciliation plan endorsed by the Ballarat City Councillors, but says there is still a pressing need for the presence of indigenous people to be involved in democratic decision-making.

Murray Harrison believes more can be done.

Murray Harrison believes more can be done.

The aim of the reconciliation plan is to build relationships, opportunities and respect for indigenous communities.

‘Uncle’ Murray Harrison praised the council’s Draft Reconciliation Action Plan 2014-17 which was unanimously endorsed by councillors at Wednesday night’s council meeting.

But he said there is still a long way to go in bringing key elements of the plan into fruition. 

“We need at least two or three people in leadership roles within the council so people can actually see them,” he said. 

“For a long time we have felt invisible because unless you see the presence of somebody you can tend to overlook them. When you see elite indigenous sportsmen and women everybody takes notice of them, because they are visible in the community. We need the same type presence within council so that indigenous people become a part of making the decisions which effect our community.”

Mr Harrison said up until now, decisions involving indigenous people had been largely made by non-indigenous people, but he hoped this would change following the implementation of the plan. 

Aims of the plan include the election of an indigenous councillor in the next decade and the employment of indigenous people in positions of leadership within the council.

It also outlines the need for indigenous leaders in key committees, including the disability advisory committee and positive ageing committee. 

The plan also calls for investment into sporting facilities for indigenous people and specific events and health services to improve health outcomes of indigenous people. 

But Mr Harrison said the most important aspect is ensuring better education opportunities for young indigenous people.

“Education is the most crucial part in changing the future of generations of indigenous people,” he said. “We have already seen the outcomes of young people who have missed out on education, they need to be educated and they need support.” 

Other elements of the plan include at least one staged indigenous performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre per year, two designated art exhibitions for emerging indigenous artists and at least two Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander artworks commissioned and installed every year. Ballarat City Councillor and co-chair of KEAG Belinda Coates said this plan aims to go even further than the last. 

“It aims high and it is very aspirational,” she said. “The motto of the plan is ‘making Koorie business everybody’s business’ and we hope the plan will achieve this.”

The plan is the council’s second Reconciliation Action Plan with the first being developed in 2011 and will be updated every four years.

It is a collaboration between the council and members of the Koorie Engagement Action Group.

It will be on public exhibition for four weeks.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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