By SEJA AL-ZAIDI
Inner West Council has announced that they will incorporate the Uluru Statement from the Heart into the council’s Community Strategic Plan following last month’s elections.
Councillor Darcy Byrne, who was re-elected as Inner West Mayor in December, said that the Uluru Statement from the Heart, once incorporated, would become the “philosophical underpinning of our relationship with Aboriginal people in the Inner West”.
The announcement was made on January 26, with Cr Byrne telling residents to “respectfully accept that offer [sharing Aboriginal culture with all Australians] so that we can write the next chapter in the history of our continent together”.
The Uluru Statement From the Heart is the largest consensus of First Nations peoples on a proposal for constitutional recognition in Australian history. The Statement calls for Parliamentary recognition of the sovereignty of Indigenous people and comments on varied social and systemic issues faced by the Indigenous community today.
When asked about how council plans to incorporate the Statement into the Community Strategic Plan, Cr Byrne said that “we are not just endorsing it but identifying the Statement From the Heart as the guiding philosophical position that will determine our relationship with Aboriginal people in the inner west, and our policy outlook on reconciliation more broadly”.
The newly-elected Council is comprised of 15 seats, with Labor holding eight, the Greens holding five, and the remaining two being held by Independents Pauline Lockie and John Stamolis. The act appeared to be unanimously embraced by both factions of the council, with Greens councillor Kobi Shetty calling the move “wonderful”.
“I’m really happy to see that’s the direction the Council wants to go. I think the Uluru Statement is a really important Indigenous voice, so incorporating those perspectives into the way we run our community is a really good start,” Cr Shetty said.
The Statement was rejected by the federal government in 2017, with then Prime Minister
Malcolm Turnbull calling the framework “too ambitious”, saying that a referendum
would not get majority support from Australians across the states.
“It hasn’t been recognised or treated with the respect it should have by the federal government,” Cr Byrne said.
“It’s really sad that almost immediately after it was drafted, a number of federal politicians went out of their way to misinterpret it and describe it as a call for an additional chamber of Parliament, which it’s simply not.”
Part of the Statement’s significance is its commentary on the structural impediments to true empowerment of the Indigenous community from a First Nations perspective.
“It’s a document of incredibly powerful political prose; it’s so beautifully written,” Cr Byrne said.
“In decades and centuries to come people will look back and see just how crucial a turning point it was for the Aboriginal community to come together and draft it.”
Council’s next steps are engagement with Indigenous consultative committees to determine what it can do at a local level to promote reconciliation in partnership with First Nations people.