Clarence Valley Council general manager Ashley Lindsay.
Clarence Valley Council general manager Ashley Lindsay. Adam Hourigan

'We humbly apologise'

CLARENCE Valley Council has issued a public apology to the Aboriginal people of the Clarence Valley through a full page advertisement in today's Daily Examiner.

Council general manager Ashley Lindsay said the apology came from the adopted resolution of council after the destruction of an Aboriginal "scar tree" in Grafton.

"I felt that it was appropriate for council to formalise that through an open letter to the community in the local press so that the message got out there to the Clarence Valley community that we are extremely apologetic for what's happened with the scar tree," he said.

The letter opens with the lines: "It is difficult to find the right words to express the level of remorse the Clarence Valley Council has for the destruction of an Aboriginal scar tree in Grafton.

READ MORE >> OUR SAY: Sorry is a good start after scar tree removal

"The destruction of this tree does not represent who we are as an organisation nor does it reflect the respect we have for the Aboriginal community, its culture and beliefs and its history."

It comes after a Land and Environment Court case earlier in the year in which the council pleaded guilty to removing the remains of a scar tree at the corner of Breimba and Dovedale streets in 2016.

The council had already been fined $1500 after the tree was lopped in 2013, and introduced a range of measures for dealing with items of cultural significance.

However, in 2016, council staff removed the entire tree without approval from senior management, leading to an Office of Environment and Heritage investigation which led to the court case.

The letter ends with the line: "We have let the Aboriginal community down and for that we humbly apologise."

THE FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER:

Letter to the Aboriginal People of the Clarence Valley

It is difficult to find the right words to express the level of remorse the Clarence Valley Council has for the destruction of an Aboriginal scar tree in Grafton.

The destruction of this tree does not represent who we are as an organisation nor does it reflect the respect we have for the Aboriginal community, its culture and beliefs and its history.

The Council acknowledges the importance of the tree to the Aboriginal community and the deep hurt and sense of loss that its destruction has caused.

This tree also helped the wider community to recognise and be educated about the ancient and enduring Aboriginal culture that was here before European settlement and continues today. It is a history of which we should all be proud and it is incumbent on us to show respect for the cultural traditions and objects.

One of our six core values as an organisation is Respect. We have made a genuine promise to the community that we will be inclusive, treat people with courtesy and fairness, and ensure each group and individual is valued and heard. In this instance we failed to meet our own values and those of the wider community.

This apology is unreserved and heart felt. We place enormous value on our relationships with the Aboriginal community. We are stronger as individuals and as an organisation when we work together; when we recognise the importance of our respective cultures and their symbols. We have let the Aboriginal community down and for that we humbly apologise.

Yours faithfully

Jim Simmons / Ashley Lindsay

Mayor / General Manager



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