Improved relationships between Lismore City Council (LCC) and its Bundjalung community, greater cultural awareness among council staff and councillors, and better access to ongoing and meaningful Indigenous employment opportunities form the core of a new Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) covering the Lismore Local Government Area (LGA).
The plan, which was unanimously approved at this week’s council meeting, will now be forwarded to the board of Reconciliation Australia for its final endorsement.
In July 2009 LCC adopted a recommendation to support the development of a RAP, to provide Council with a framework to advance both Indigenous equality and improve social sustainability across the LGA.
A working party was formed to focus on areas that council believed it could best influence change.
In the area of employment, council aims to increase Indigenous employment up to 25 employees during 2013.
Councillor Simon Clough put forward the motion to support the plan and noted ‘that we are on the cusp of a very different relationship with the Aboriginal community’.
Cr Neil Marks supported the motion and paid attention to the ‘action part of this plan – it is not like many other areas that are just warm and cuddly. This has practical outcomes like real jobs. I applaud the work that has been done to bring about possibilities of change.’
Cr Mathew Scheibel agrees with the need for such a plan to recognise Aboriginal culture but added, ‘all cultures need to be recognised’. He also added, ‘I know the figure of 25 employees is a statistical figure but why do we need a number? In the interest of equality, everyone should be equal, employment should be for whoever fits the criteria the best.’
Cr Bennett brought attention to the United Nations Convention and asked ‘had this been taken into consideration… the RAP is in conflict by the definition of racial discrimination… there should be no preferences based on race.’
Mayor Jenny Dowell, who is on the reconciliation committee, responded, ‘this RAP is a response to the under-representation of Aboriginal people; that is why this council and hundreds of organisations are taking steps to assist Aboriginal people by having a plan to address longstanding discrimination’.
Cr Clough closed by saying, ‘if you walk around the Lismore CBD there is still a huge lack of Aboriginal employment in the retail industry. I’m aware of that every time I walk down town.’