In 2003, the City of Ballarat embarked on a journey of reconciliation with local *Aboriginal people and a Statement of Commitment was developed through a process of negotiation and consultation.
The Statement of Commitment was reviewed by Council’s Koorie Engagement Action Group in 2011, to take into consideration the changes that have occurred in Aboriginal affairs over the past eight years.
It is intended that this Statement of Commitment will encourage greater understanding, acknowledgment, respect, inclusion of and opportunities for the Aboriginal people of this region.
*In the Statement of Commitment Aboriginal refers to all our first nation peoples, including Torres Strait Islanders.
The City of Ballarat acknowledges:
the Wathaurung were the first peoples of this region and have cared for this country for tens of thousands of years;
the Ballarat Aboriginal community is a diverse community with varying needs;
while some residents are descendants from Wathaurung, many community members come from different parts of Victoria and interstate and now live in Ballarat; Nations bordering Wathaurung country are Dja Dja Wurrung, Djab Wurrung and Wurundjeri
there are members of the Ballarat community who are members of the Stolen Generations; and
that Ballarat has a legacy of involvement in the history of the Stolen Generations.
The City of Ballarat will seek to:
build a stronger relationship between Aboriginal Australians and the wider community;
ensure that Ballarat remains a place where people of all cultures are welcome, respected, experience freedom and contribute to life in the local community;
eliminate every form of racism or discrimination in our community; and
improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal Australians, and in particular provide future opportunities that may lead to better outcomes for Aboriginal children.
The City of Ballarat recognises:
continued occupation of this land by the Wathaurung people, as original people of the land;
the Elders are the definitive spokespersons on behalf of the Aboriginal community;
the customs and traditions of Aboriginal Australians and their spiritual relationship with the land and respects Aboriginal sacred sites and significant places;
the right of Aboriginal Australians to practice their own spirituality and live according to their own values and customs;
the valuable contribution made by Aboriginal Australians and their culture to the history of the region;
the value of the diversity and strength of Aboriginal cultures to the heritage of all Australians;
the principles of equity and access for all members of the Aboriginal community to services and programs offered by Council which will endeavour to be aware of cultural sensitivities;
the hurt and suffering experienced by the Stolen Generations; and
that Aboriginal Australians have experienced dispossession and loss of land, family and livelihood, and are still impacted by these factors today.
The City of Ballarat supports:
the vision as expressed by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation of a united Australia which respects this land of ours, values the Aboriginal heritage and provides justice and equity for all.
The City of Ballarat is committed to:
the preservation of Aboriginal cultural heritage in a way that is sensitive to and respects the dignity and protocols of the local Aboriginal community;
promoting education to enhance the understanding and awareness of Aboriginal heritage and the needs of the Ballarat Aboriginal community;
ongoing consultation with the Aboriginal community of Ballarat in order to ensure cultural sensitivity and inclusion in social and community planning;
developing and promoting Aboriginal involvement in local events and celebrations of local and regional significance which respects the dignity and protocols of the local Aboriginal community;
supporting the aspirations of Aboriginal Australians and consulting when making decisions that affect their rights and interests;
offering support to the Aboriginal community's desire to discuss, negotiate and enter into a treaty or local agreement to enshrine Aboriginal rights;
advocacy in partnership with the Aboriginal members of our community to ensure the principles and commitments of this statement are upheld;
implementing appropriate programs and activities that demonstrate our ongoing commitment to Aboriginal issues and programs;
protecting significant cultural heritage sites past and present;
consulting with the Aboriginal community in the appropriate use of traditional place names; and
closing the gap between disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in areas of health, employment, education, housing, social and emotional wellbeing and justice.
As a Council we aim to ensure all of our activities, practices, plans, decisions and strategic directions are undertaken in a way that is responsive and inclusive of Aboriginal issues. This includes culture, heritage and recognition of the traditional custodians of the land as the Wathaurung people and their representatives.
Our Council firmly believes that reconciliation can only succeed if it belongs to the people; it is a people’s movement. The work of the Koorie Engagement Action group and its supporters, in re-launching this document in the spirit of strengthening our community, shows in practice what that means.
Council maintains a strong commitment to supporting our Aboriginal Community and as such, it is has been a pleasure to be involved with the re-birth of our Statement of Commitment.
Artwork: The painting represents all cultures coming together from all parts of Australia. The platypus is seemingly made up from parts of different Aboriginal people.
Artists thoughts on the statement: To me, the re-launch of the Statement of Commitment means that the connection between Indigenous people and the City of Ballarat is still going strong, and I am very proud to be a part of the Statement once again.