A local councillor from the Hills Shire district in Sydney is under fire over emails he sent to a local resident about holding a short Acknowledgement of Country ceremony before meetings, saying instead Australia should just “move on”.
Clr Brooke Collins, who is a member of the Liberal Party, refused calls to hold the ceremony because he claimed he didn’t want to “single out one race” and that it would “divide us more”.
“Thank you for your email however I won’t single out one race we are all equal and what you suggest just divides us more!” he said in an email to University of Western Sydney student Mikaela Gallaway.
“However if you were To (sic) suggest we should also acknowledge people bought against their will from England in 1788, and European settlement for making our country what it is today plus those who fought and died for us then yes I would agree!”
When Galloway replied explaining what an acknowledgement of country is – a short statement acknowledging Aboriginal people as the original owners of the land, and therefore does not apply to the military or the British – Collins dug his heels in further.
“Thank you for the history lesson Mikaela however you may want to find out where indigenous (sic) people originated from and it wasn’t here in Australia they too turned up on our shores unannounced, however yes they were the first here, however they lived a very nomadic life, unlike the life you lead now!” he said.
“How do you know they didn’t wipe out another race when they arrived here 70,000 years ago???”
Collins continued: “Let’s agree to disagree however we have what we all have today thanks to European settlement….however if they didn’t arrive you and I wouldn’t be here!
“I can’t change what happened over 250 years let’s all move forward!”
Galloway, 27, told PEDESTRIAN.TV she was “shocked” by Collins’ reply, which came from his local council work email.
“I know these people exist out there with these views, but for him to put it in writing on a work email was shocking,” she said.
“It’s heartbreaking that people hold those ideals still 2020.”
Galloway was prompted to email Collins in the first place after Samantha Wylie, a Darug woman, asked members of the Hills District Mum’s Page on Facebook to petition local councillors to include the ceremony.
“It started because of Reconciliation Week,” Wylie told P.TV.
“It was a challenge set to my local white community and these are the responses received. It is disappointing but of course I knew that would be the type of response.”
Another Liberal councillor, Mike Thomas, also refused via email to include the ceremony.
“As a council we have made the decision to treat all people equally. We do not give exclusive recognition to any one group. This should not be a surprise given it is a long held position widely supported by our community with few exceptions,” Thomas said.
“For myself, I have many aboriginal (sic) family members including grandchildren.
“I have never seen our family treat each other differently on the basis of race and take exception that some think this is required.”
However, another local Hills resident, Abbey Wightley, 24, who is a Kamilaroi woman, told P.TV she had witnessed countless acts of racism growing up in the area.
“Primary school teachers make extremely racist slurs, or vilifying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – it’s a common issue, and it arises of the lack of education.
“The councillor [Brooke Collins] has been presented with an opportunity to learn from this, and I really hope he takes this opportunity to learn about the country he lives and works on.”
Neither Collins not Mayor Michelle Byrne have responded to P.TV’s requests for comment.