The Naracoorte Lucindale Council has become the third in South Australia to remove an Acknowledgement of Country from its council meeting procedures.

Rather than acknowledging the traditional owners of the Limestone Coast, Mayor Patrick Ross will now say at the start of council meetings: “We acknowledge and respect our complex history. We welcome everyone to build our future together.”

Similar moves were made by the Playford and Northern Areas councils late last year.

Mr Ross pushed for the change as part of several other changes to meeting procedures.

Mayor Patrick Ross says the history of the area is complex.(Facebook: Naracoorte Lucindale Council)

He told last week’s meeting the welcome should be “simple” and “inclusive”, and the current welcome did not reflect the growing diversity of the local population, which now included more people born overseas.

“Our complex history is complex purely around the diverse nature from where people have come, so that’s the diverse history, and to mention every single entity within that would make for quite a long welcome,” he said.

The previous Acknowledgement of Country said: “We acknowledge and respect the traditional owners of the ancestral lands of the Limestone Coast. We acknowledge elders past and present and we respect the deep feelings of attachment and relationship of Aboriginal peoples to Country.”

Elders ‘disheartened’

Reconciliation South Australia chief executive Jason Downs said the organisation was “rather sad” about the move and local elders he had spoken to were “rather disheartened”.

Reconciliation SA chief executive Jason Downs says the organisation could run a workshop for the council.(Supplied: Reconciliation South Australia)

He said Acknowledgements of Country recognised the leaders who were looking after the land before colonisation and also the current and future generations “trying to navigate the complexity of engaging and working with others”.

“It’s creating a level of visibility that isn’t always there,” he said.

He said Reconciliation South Australia had offered to run a workshop on the importance of Acknowledgements of Country in Naracoorte via a media release but had not contacted the council directly.

“Our door is always open to conversations and to help the council see a way forward,” he said.

Call for more discussion

Councillor Abigail Goodman had called for a workshop to be held to discuss the wording of the welcome but her motion was defeated.

She said Acknowledgements of Country were helpful as a reconciliation practice to increase understanding and awareness of Indigenous culture, but could also become a “tick-box exercise” if not done thoughtfully.

“But it has the power to be much more than that,” she added.

“When it’s done in a way that’s reflective of the culture and tradition from which it was adapted, it provides a lot of opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the land on which we live — that we’re meeting here tonight in the Naracoorte Lucindale Council area.

“It provides us the opportunity to recognise our role in managing and caring for Country, to understand our history and the way that we make decisions and look to the future.”

The change to remove the Acknowledgement of Country passed six votes to four.

Cr Cameron Grundy said the new welcome was so simple that no-one could be offended by not being mentioned.

“The beauty of these two sentences is that they capture everyone,” he said.

Councillors also decided to remove a prayer from the start of the meeting, and continue allowing questions without notice at meetings.

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