Councillors fire up over Welcome to Country cost debate

Councillors fire up over Welcome to Country cost debate

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Councillor Glenn Dewhurst put two motions that the cost be based on the time required from the person involved and the costs a person incurs and that acknowledgements to country should be at the discretion of the mayor. Photo - Richard Polden

Monthly Gosnells Council meetings cost $56,600 according to councillor Sarah Patterson who was slamming a councillor’s bid to cut the costs of welcome to country ceremonies and the number of them each year.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Councillor Glenn Dewhurst put two motions that the cost be based on the time required from the person involved and the costs a person incurs and that acknowledgements to country should be at the discretion of the mayor.

The council was told that the ceremonies cost between $250 and $2000 with mayor Terresa Lynes saying they could cost up to $30,000 depending on the length of the speech and the number of people involved.

Cr Peter Abetz said one ceremony in Tony Abbott’s Federal Parliament cost $10,500 and that the welcome to country was not an Aboriginal practice but was developed by Ernie Dingo and Richard Wally in 1976.

“This is the most bigoted thing I have ever seen,” Cr Patterson said.

She said she felt privileged to be part of an acknowledgement to country ceremony and the council should pay what it costs.

“To pay what we only think it is worth – who are we to determine that?” she asked.

“In terms of spending money on things valuable, just so the community is aware, this meeting costs $56,600 to listen to this.”

Cr Dewhurst said in his motion he believed far too many acknowledgements of country are given without genuine feeling or meaning.

“They consequently convey a sense of tokenism and obligation rather than a heart-felt acknowledgement,” he said.

“To avoid this occurring in the City of Gosnells, it should be at the mayor’s discretion whether an acknowledgement of country occurs.

“A formal welcome to country is a highly symbolic and meaningful ceremony and should not become an obligation at all events.

“It should be reserved for highly significant city events such as the Fusion Food and Culture Festival.”

His motions said acknowledgements to country should also include Australia’s settlers who had made a significant contribution to society.

Both motions were lost.