Hepburn Shire Council has formally stated its unanimous support for the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through the Voice to Parliament.

Mayor of Hepburn Shire Council Cr Brian Hood said this stance is consistent with Council’s  position statement to support the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“Our support for the Voice to Parliament aligns with the work Council does towards recognition and reconciliation, including actions within our four-year Council Plan, Community Vision and Reconciliation Action Plan,” said Cr Hood.

“Examples of this work include the award-winning Manna Gums Frontier Wars Memorial near Coomoora; bringing language back to Country with the creek naming of Larni Barramal Yaluk and supporting a range of community activities that promote understanding and reconciliation,” he said.

The unanimous vote in Council’s ordinary meeting this week was greeted with applause from the small audience in attendance at the meeting.

In discussions preceding the vote, Councillors spoke of their personal experiences and their commitment to inclusion of Indigenous Australians.

Deputy Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt cautioned the community to approach their discussions sensitively. “I note that a number of our First Nations People have said that for them, this referendum seems like an unsafe cultural space.” She pointed to social media responses to the renaming of Larni Baramul Yaluk and Lalgambuk and vandalism of the birthing tree near Ararat as examples of the heightened community divisions that the Voice discussion has highlighted. “I encourage the community to remember that there are people whose lives are involved that if it is not done in a respectful way, that they won’t feel part of this nation, that they won’t feel part of this community.”

Cr Tess Halliday reiterated Cr Hewitt’s caution and spoke of her personal experience during the same-sex marriage survey. “As a member of a minority community, I know it was a very traumatic time and trauma surrounding this discussion is something that will be ongoing for some people even after the vote.”

In reaching its unanimous decision councillors acknowledged that a First Nations Voice to Parliament would be an independent, representative advisory body that would provide a permanent means to advise Parliament and Government on matters affecting the lives of First Nations communities – including advice on practical steps to improve health, education, employment and housing. Most importantly, a Voice to Parliament would be the means for recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution for the first time.

Councillors further noted that supporting constitutional recognition aligns with Hepburn Shire Council’s Reconciliation Plan and its underlying commitments to self-determination, partnerships, community dialogue and truth-telling.

Council has also resolved to share clear, credible information on the Voice to Parliament and all aspects of the upcoming referendum.

“We appreciate there are divergent views on this matter within the community. Providing clear and credible information will assist residents in making their own considered and informed decision,” said Cr Hood.

The resolution does not bind Councillors or Shire staff to adhere to the Council position. Individuals may privately or publicly pursue their individual viewpoint.

“As always, we encourage our community to inform themselves and respectfully exercise their democratic right to have their say,” he said.

Read more about the Voice to Parliament.