Gunnedah Shire Council is proposing to limit where its acknowledgement of country is made – dismissing a suggestion to extend the policy to include council “working groups and committee meetings”.

The changes were heard during council’s March ordinary meeting where several recently revised draft policies were due to be released for public exhibition. Council said the revision would ensure policies were relevant and up to date.

Among those to be revised was council’s Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country Policy.

This seven-page document said the policy aimed to “foster cultural practices and facilitate relationships in the broader community, promoting respect and understanding” of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.

The original draft listed the policy’s purpose as setting out the “guiding principles for council, its committees, working groups and staff, to observe the appropriate protocols for the acknowledgement of traditional custodians at council activities and events and in council publications”.

Deputy mayor Rob Hooke suggested the policy not extend to council working groups and committee meetings.

These meetings often collaborate with members of the Gunnedah community but unlike ordinary council meetings, are closed to the general public.

Cr Hooke was concerned that incorporating the acknowledgement into more aspects of council would “trivialise” its original meaning.

“At the moment it requires committees and working groups to acknowledge country,” he said.

“A lot [of these groups] are working behind closed doors and I don’t believe it is in the public’s best interest.

“All it is doing is trivialising what I think is an important statement.”

Councillor Juliana McArthur agreed that Cr Hooke’s proposal would help reduce the acknowledgment being trivialised.

Councillor Kate McGrath disagreed and said the committees and working groups should be included as they were the “front line” of interaction with the community.

She said the acknowledgement of country was “just as important around the table as when we stand up to deliver a speech”.

An amendment was put to a vote and carried to remove “leadership team meetings” and “working group and committee meetings” from the scope of the revised draft policy.

The subsequent motion to exhibit the changed draft policy was also agreed to by councillors.

Cr McGrath expressed her disappointment at the amendment.

“It’s not hard to be respectful,” she said.

“It is such a minor thing to have as a standard practice in working groups and committees the acknowledgement.

“I’m incredibly disappointed to see this watered down to the point it has.”

Councillor Colleen Fuller replied: “I feel that was a little over of what I would expect of a councillor, but you have your right to speak as I do”.

Council’s business paper referenced Reconciliation NSW to describe the difference between the acknowledgement of country and welcome to country ceremonies.

The business paper said the acknowledgement of country is compared to a knock on the door while welcome to country is the invitation to come in and communicates ‘It is okay for you to be here’.

The draft Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country Policy is on public exhibition at Gunnedah Shire Council until April 18.

Other council policies also on public exhibition include Legislative Compliance, Footpath Occupation and Social Media policy.

All draft policies can be viewed online at or at Gunnedah Shire Council’s Elgin Street office.

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