The recent move by Victorian Liberal Premier Ted Bailieu to downgrade the importance of acknowledging traditional land owners has been met with displeasure by much of the Australian community, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal alike.
Mr Bailieu was quick to point out that in Victoria, as is the case here in NSW, such acknowledgements have never been compulsory. This then makes one wonder though why he felt the need to get involved in the issue in the first place – has confusion over this really been high on the list of pressing matters in Victoria?
Mr Bailieu says that the acknowledgments shouldn’t be compulsory as this makes them tokenistic. However I consider it quite hypocritical that while the Liberals have moved against ‘tokenistic’ respect for Aboriginal people they have made no moves to end the tokenistic Christian prayers that customarily open countless meetings of Parliaments, Councils and other secular bodies around the country.
So far it seems that the new Liberal government here in NSW aren’t as disrespectful as their Victorian counterparts. However only time will tell if they will surprise us with a similar junking of this important gesture of respect in the same way they surprised us by ripping apart solar feed-in tariffs.
Should they go down this shameful path my Greens colleagues in state parliament and I will be fighting them all the way. While an acknowledgement of country may be seen as a token, it is far more than that. It is an acknowledgement that we meet on Aboriginal land that was never ceded, sold or given away. It has taken over 200 years for this acknowledgement to be given to Aboriginal people and it is appalling that even this little mark of respect could be taken away.