Prayer to remain at beginning of Randwick Council meetings

Prayer to remain at beginning of Randwick Council meetings
Image: Greens Councillor Kym Chapple. Council meetings. Photo: Supplied/Peter Rae.


A push to remove the reading of a prayer at the opening of Randwick Council meetings was knocked down at a meeting last month. A motion tabled by Greens Councillor Kym Chapple to replace the prayer with a minute of reflection, preceded by the acknowledgement of country, was defeated.

Council did however choose to move the acknowledgement of country before the prayer at the beginning of each meeting.

Cr Chapple said that her idea to replace the prayer with reflection would “allow everyone to participate in a process that is meaningful for them”. 

Labor Councillor Alexandra Luxford, who identifies as Eastern Orthodox Christian, spoke to council in favour of keeping the prayer.

“The prayer is not overly religious” Cr Luxford said at the October council meeting.

“Our prayer is not offensive in any way.”

Randwick LGA still more religious than not

According to a 2021 Randwick City community profile, 26.7 percent of residents identify as Catholic, and 36.9 percent identify as having no religion. The survey showed that there is a larger proportion of residents who identify as having some religion than those who have none.

However national census data does reflect that the nation is moving towards a trend of less religion. Australians reporting ‘no religion’ rose from 19% in 2006 to 30% in 2016.

The five largest religious groups in the Randwick LGA are Western Roman Catholic, Anglican, Greek Orthodox, Jewish and Buddhist.

Also speaking against the motion to scrap the prayer, Liberal Councillor Daniel Rosenfeld argued thats sticking to tradition is important.

“I like the traditions that councils like this have been doing for many years” he said.

Rosenfeld added that as a Jewish person himself, he believes the prayer caters to many religious groups within the LGA.

“I don’t see this as a Christian Prayer” Rosenfeld said.

However Cr Chapple believes that “traditions are not meant to be static and unchanging”.

“Randwick Council was established in 1859 but women didn’t even get the vote in NSW until 1902 and even then that didn’t apply to Local Council elections. First Nations people weren’t able to vote until 1962″ she said. 

In relation to the religious demographic of the LGA, Cr Chapple said that “there are many reasons why a Christian Prayer might not be appropriate for a person of faith”.

She said reasons might include “that they feel it doesn’t reflect their own religion, that they have religious trauma or have experienced child sexual abuse within an institution”. 

“I have had religious people say to me that they don’t need their faith reflected by requiring a specific prayer to be read at council, and that they respect that secularism in government provides true religious freedom.”

In her own speech to council, Cr Chapple said that councils across NSW, as well as other government institutions, are moving away from religious addresses. She noted that 5 councils across NSW, and 40 across the country, have scrapped the payer in favour of a reflection. 

“Suggesting we adhere to traditions from 1859 where these are no longer relevant to more than a third of our community is bizarre” she said. 

Regional NSW Councils Wagga Wagga and Shoalhaven have both voted to remove the reading of prayers. The ABC reported that over half of all Central Victorian councils have also removed the prayer.

The NSW greens have also recently vamped up a push to remove the prayer in NSW Parliament, with MP Abigail Boyd labelling the tradition as “absurd”.

Acknowledgement of country to come first

However, Cr Chapple said she was pleased at council’s decision to move acknowledgement of country before the prayer.

“Acknowledgment of Country is an important measure for showing respect and recognising the ongoing sovereignty of First Nations people and it should be the first thing we do when we come together” she said. 

The move reflects that of the Federal Parliament, which hears an acknowledgment of the traditional owners of the lands before the lord’s prayer is read. The NSW Parliament, however has a prayer read before acknowledgement of country.

City Hub reached out to Cr Luxford, as the first speaker at the council meeting against the motion, for comment, but received no response.

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