An indigenous leader says the acknowledgement and welcome to Country should be considered in more aspects at Gunnedah Shire Council.

Red Chief Local Land Council chief executive Troy Ruttley said the cultural practices were about “respect” and a proposal to limit their use at council would be a step backward for local indigenous people.

It follows the public exhibition of council’s revised ‘Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country Policy’. This seven-page document provides “guiding principles for council, its committees, working groups and staff, to observe the appropriate protocols for the acknowledgement of traditional custodians”.

The draft policy was presented to councillors at the March ordinary meeting and included a suggestion to extend the acknowledgment of Country – likened to a ‘knock on the door’ – to council working groups and committee meetings. But that suggestion was not unanimously supported by councillors, including deputy mayor Rob Hooke. He was concerned that incorporating the acknowledgement into more aspects of council would “trivialise” its original meaning.

Mr Ruttley said the acknowledgement delivery depends on the situation and is ultimately a personal decision.

“I don’t expect someone who has five meetings a day, every time they meet with someone to do an acknowledgment of Country,” he said.

“Sometimes when one-on-one, I feel it is a personal choice if you feel it is necessary.

“But if I’m meeting with a group, unit, team or whole organisation meeting – then I would expect there would be some respect to country and people would do acknowledgements.

“If people are taking minutes, it is a formalised meeting, and there is a process you would take.

“I think it doesn’t take an effort of time to pay respect and as long as it’s meaningful and respectful, then it’s important.”

Mr Ruttley said what ever acknowledgment is delivered, which can be performed by anyone – indigenous or not – should be made from the heart.

He said council is a leader of the community and should lead by example by modelling best practice to ensure this becomes the norm rather than just a “to do” as part of a meeting.

“Aboriginal people regardless of where they come from, have been deprived of country,” he said. “So, to have Australia acknowledge and respect Country is a huge thing for us.

“People have to get uncomfortable about doing it… as long its respectful.

“It has to be purposeful, meaningful and respectful.

“If it’s read off a document from a script, then it’s not meaningful, it becomes tokenistic.”

The council policy also stipulated that indigenous cultural practices would still apply to other “council events” including the first meeting of a new council, ordinary council meetings and other major events where the general public is present and there is an official ceremony or opening.

Public submissions for the revised council policy closed on April 18. Before the new policy is formally adopted, council requested a further report at the conclusion of the public exhibition period if submissions were received.

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