New petition sparked by council clash

FIGHTING FOR RECOGNITION:  Aboriginal elder Uncle Greg Simms joined the smoking ceremony held in protest of the Hills council's decision to not include an acknowledgement to country before its meetings on September 28.

FIGHTING FOR RECOGNITION: Aboriginal elder Uncle Greg Simms joined the smoking ceremony held in protest of the Hills council's decision to not include an acknowledgement to country before its meetings on September 28.

An online petition is garnering community support for The Hills council to recognise the traditional custodians of the land at council meetings.

Labor councillor Ryan Tracey started the petition in the hope of gaining wider awareness about the issue. 

“The motivation is to encourage some of the people who voted against it this time to really think about it,” Cr Tracey said. “So they see that people do really care about this issue.”

The motion has been put to council three times with the latest rejection at last month’s meeting on September 13.  

Since it’s inception on Friday, October 14 the Change.org petition has garnered more than 50 signatures in support of the motion. 

Cr Tracey said he hoped the petition would push his colleagues to recognise the significance of the acknowledgement in a contemporary community.

“I think ideology is getting in the way of modern Australia,” Cr Tracey said.  “This is a line that we are going to keep pushing forward.

“The whole point is having an inclusive council which means including and accepting everyone.”  

The petition was sparked by councillors clashing again over the motion at a meeting on October 11. 

Labor councillor Raymond Harty and Liberal councillor Michael Thomas butted heads again on the motion following an address from a resident during community forum.  Cr Harty criticised Cr Thomas for his ‘cross-examination’ of Baulkham Hills resident Denise Hofman  and thanked her for her address.   “She [Ms Hofman] is answering them as she feels best,” Cr Harty said. 

The councillors’ rejection of the motion to do an acknowledgment of country before its meetings sparked a protest outside Council chambers last month with supporters hosting a smoking ceremony.

“It’s a simple acknowledgement,” Cr Tracey said.  “It’s not about race, it’s about them being the first people. It isn’t handing them anything but giving some dignity.”  Details: change.org/p/calling-upon-the-hills-shire-council-to-acknowledge-traditional-owners-at-council-meetings.

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