Councillor: Why I won't acknowledge traditional owners

A LIBERAL member of Camden Council, in south west Sydney drew national attention on Friday over her refusal to read out a passage acknowledging indigenous landowners at the start of council meetings. 

Now Cr Penny Fischer -  the daughter of New South Wales Mental Health Minister Pru Goward - has explained her position.

"When the Acknowledgment of Country was proposed at Camden Council three and a half years ago, I supported the Motion to have it recited at the beginning of Council meetings," Ms Fischer said via email.

Penny Fischer
Penny Fischer

"Soon after, I requested that Camden Council staff skip me on the roster.

"I also expressed to them then - and a number of times since - that I would prefer any money that the Council spends relating to indigenous issues should go towards local aboriginal scholarships instead.

"It is also my view that Camden Council gets straight on with the business of Council at a Council meeting.

"Occasionally, usually at more formal public functions, a local aboriginal person will perform a Welcome to Country. 

"I believe that having an aboriginal person in that role is far more meaningful than having someone like me do an Acknowledgment as part of a roster system.

"In three and a half years, I have never sought to make an issue of whether or not I recite an Acknowledgement of Country at the beginning of a Council meeting. 

"I do not see why it is an issue now and it is regrettable that some people now choose to make it so.

"Australia has very strong traditions relating to Freedom of Speech.  We cannot and must not force people to say something they do not want to.  Those who want to say it, do.

"Australia's Indigenous population suffers from a huge variety of very serious issues, including life expectancy, health, education and access to jobs. 

"If the question of who recites an Acknowledgment of Country at Camden Council gets people to think and act on those issues, then I am glad of it." 

According to Fairfax media's report on Friday one of Cr Fischer's colleagues said her position was sending the wrong message. 

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