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By Ray White Whitsunday

A pledge to install acknowledgement of country signage at town entrances and support commissioned artwork are among a range of commitments outlined in Whitsunday Regional Council’s first reconciliation plan.

Councillors voted to endorse the Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan at this week’s council meeting.

Mayor Andrew Willcox said First Nations, as well as the high population of South Sea islander people, in the Whitsunday region were held in high regard and it was important they were recognised.

“They have done a lot to shape the Whitsunday region so this is a good document,” Cr Willcox said.

The plan notes there are five traditional owner groups that hold rights and interests in the Whitsunday region, they are the Jangga, Birriah, Juru, Gia and Ngaro peoples.

“While this is council’s first RAP, our commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and community organisations, programs and events began much earlier,” the plan states.

“Whitsunday Regional Council is a party to registered indigenous Land Use Agreements that were negotiated between the council and each of the three native title holding groups currently recognised in the local government area.”

The indigenous Land Use Agreements were registered with the Jangga People in 2010, Juru People in 2014 and Birriah People in 2015.

The new Reconciliation Action Plan the council has endorsed aims to complement and bolster the commitments made in each of the indigenous Land Use Agreements.

The plan includes four focus areas for the council as well as specific actions that need to be taken within those areas and timelines for when they need to be done.

The four focus areas are enriching relationships, enhancing relationships, creating opportunities and governance.

There is a Ngaro cultural site located at Nara Inlet in the Whitsundays. Photo: Tourism Whitsundays

Under enriching relationships, the council aims to strengthen working relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities, traditional owners, peak bodies and organisations.

“These relationships ensure our continued victory in increasing the levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation with Whitsunday Regional Council and allow us to build and strengthen joint project opportunities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander businesses,” the plan states.

Some of the boxes that must be ticked include meeting with relevant stakeholders and organisations quarterly, paying meeting attendance fees to participants for their time and cultural knowledge, and organising at least one National Reconciliation Week event a year.

Under the other three focus areas there are also a wide range of boxes that need to be ticked, including increasing the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff employed at the council, installing acknowledgement of country road signage at town entrances and supporting commissioned artwork through possible grant funding.

Horseshoe Bay in Bowen. Picture: Tourism Whitsundays

In his message to residents in the plan, Cr Willcox said to encourage change in the community, the council first needed to look at itself to instil and promote change.

“As council gains more knowledge and awareness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, identities and languages, our community has an opportunity to understand our history and look forward to a shared future that is based on equality, fairness, respect and pride for a united community,” he wrote.

To view the full Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan, visit the council website.

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