Hepburn Shire reconciliation community reference group to be formed

The Hepburn Shire Council will look to take another step in its Reconciliation Action Plan at Tuesday night’s council meeting, which could eventually result in changing the shire’s Australia Day celebrations.     

Next steps: The Hepburn Shire Council will vote on the terms of reference to establish a community group to advise council on its reconciliation action plan.

Next steps: The Hepburn Shire Council will vote on the terms of reference to establish a community group to advise council on its reconciliation action plan.

At a regular meeting in February council voted in favour of reviewing the shire’s Australia Day celebrations, which could result in shifting the date of the municipality’s citizenship ceremony.   

Council has pledged $12,000 from the 2017/18 budget for the development of a community reference group which will represent the local aboriginal community.  

The conversation with the Dja Dja Wurrung and others is hugely important because there are things that are really important to people locally which would never make it to a state or national agenda.

Kate Redwood - Hepburn Shire councillor

Councillor Kate Redwood, who put forward the motion at the initial meeting in February, said while she did not want to preempt the findings of the action group, it was important for reconciliation to be addressed at a local level.  

“The conversation with the Dja Dja Wurrung and others is hugely important because there are things that are really important to people locally which would never make it to a state or national agenda,” Cr Redwood said.

Between five and 10 members of the local aboriginal community will form the community reference group, which will be chaired by a Hepburn Shire councillor.    

At the February meeting Creswick Ward’s Greg May was the only councillor opposed to reviewing the celebrations.  Fellow ward councillor Don Henderson supported the review, but clarified he opposed changing the date of Australia Day celebrations.   

Among the group’s tasks will be advising council on what date would be best for the shire to celebrate Australia Day.

The controversial move to shift the celebration date was attempted by the City of Fremantle in Western Australia earlier this year, drawing strong criticism from state and federal politicians. 

The reconciliation plan comes after the Victorian government signed a Recognition and Settlement Agreement with the Dja Dja Wurrung people in 2013 which recognised them as the traditional owners of land throughout Central Victoria.

The agreement gave the corporation authority over some crown land as well as joint control of a number of parks.   

The advisory group is expected to run until late 2018.