Darebin Council has reaffirmed its long and proud history of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the spirit of reconciliation, almost 60 years to the day that Aboriginal leader, Pastor Sir Doug Nicholls, delivered an historic speech in Northcote about entrenched inequality.
Darebin Mayor, Kim Le Cerf said Pastor Nicholls was a prominent Aboriginal Australian, activist, professional athlete, pastor and pioneering campaigner for reconciliation.
"Speaking in Batman Park on Australia Day in 1957, he called for the gulf between White Australia and our First Australians to be bridged, for adequate housing for the Aboriginal community, for Aboriginal representation in government and for equality," Mayor Le Cerf said.
"Today, there is a national debate taking place about how we can make Australia Day more inclusive and use it to bring all the peoples of our country together to heal the deep wounds inflicted on indigenous people.
"It’s a date that has a big history, a complicated history, a history that we grapple with. It's not something we put in our citizenship tests, but Australia Day, which marks the planting of the British Flag at Sydney Cove and the beginning of colonisation, is also a symbol of the unfinished business we have with the First People in this country.
"Standing on stage, together with the Mayor and City Councillors of the day, Pastor Nicholls spoke about the discrimination and the disadvantage that had plagued Aboriginal Australia since Europeans colonised their lands. He made the case that Australia’s First Peoples had been cast aside and forgotten by modern Australia.
"But he did not speak of recriminations or debts. This is what was so powerful about his speech. This is what captured the imagination of the crowd and helped to establish the reconciliation movement in this country – he asked only that we extend the hand of friendship. That we recognise our First Peoples, that we afford them the same chances and opportunities.
"As a Council I want to honour that tradition and reaffirm Darebin Council’s commitment to real recognition and real reconciliation.
"In the spirit of Sir Doug's speech, I want to extend the hand of friendship to local Elders and to say, we are listening. We have open hearts and we are ready to hear what we need to do, to work towards healing.
"Maybe it will mean shifting the date on which we celebrate the nation – to a date that can be owned by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people just as much as the rest of us.
"It is a conversation we need to have because we all play a role in shaping and building a better and more just Australia. We all play a role in healing wounds, and righting the wrongs of our predecessors.
"As we look to the future and learn from our past, I put it to you that Australia will remain an unfinished project until true reconciliation occurs.
"It is this however, the work of reconciliation – the dedicated work of so many Australians to bridge gulfs, to right injustices, to break down barriers and come together as one people – that makes Australia worth celebrating," the Mayor said.
Media Release: 27 January 2017