First things first. The Prayers and Acknowledgment of Country are two of the noted changes introduced by the Liberal-controlled council. While respecting religions of all denominations and worships, and even unbelievers, Christian prayers are the hallmarks of Australian institutions and it is but proper that prayers return to Council Chambers under a Liberal controlled Council. This is a first act that characterizes and distinguishes the conservatives from the new age believers or non believers.
Acknowledgment of Country is a respectful tradition that should instill affection to the heirs of the original owners of the land. But the verbal invocation must be matched by heart-felt embrace towards indigenous people. A parroted Welcome to Country can descend into tokenism because of its perfunctory recitation. An Acknowledgment must be inclusive of all the indigenous people that once lived in the City of Blacktown, the traditional owners. Any question as who do we acknowledge must be enshrined in the Acknowledgment.
I am sure that these two first acts will elicit different responses. Already, there were misrepresentations as how to achieve a genuine Acknowledgment of Country, and some aboriginal leaders in Blacktown are being whipped by Labor for hostile reactions. But a consensus must be reached once and for all on who composed the traditional owners apart from the Darug people, the well recognized original inhabitants in Blacktown, who, I am certain, will keep the recognition. There are claims that must be settled and council’s policy must not be tied down to have a proper and genuine review. I can assure the community, however, that there is no disrespect in the consultation and review being undertaken, particularly the Darug people. Needless to say, the portrait of the Queen once again occupies a position of honour in the Council Chambers.
Already, Council now has a truly independent audit committee that will elevate its findings beyond the realm or perception of bias and has earned the attention and support of Minister for Local Government. Council will also recommend that councillors or staff’s expenses during conferences are paid on reimbursement bases even before the same is proposed in the amended Code of Conduct.
Philippine President in Sydney
We welcome Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to Sydney. It is a missed opportunity that he would not visit the City of Blacktown where most Filipinos live.
I once proposed a decent and respectable Rizal Park in Blacktown, but met strong opposition from some Filipino leaders who reasoned that it may devalue their property. What we have in Blacktown is a small Rizal Reserve with limited development potential and unworthy of the name of the Philippine National Hero.
The City of Campbelltown had upped the City of Blacktown in recognizing Dr. Jose P. Rizal, with a Park worthy of the universality and the genius that Dr. Rizal is, and where the most imposing Rizal Monument in the Southern Hemisphere will be unveiled by the Philippine President. It could have been in Blacktown!