AFTER reading the article in The Daily Advertiser where Graham Burmeister made the comment “You have to ask yourself why in racist towns like Narrandera and Moree where Aboriginal people have been treated like pigs, they have these crime problems”.
As mayor of Narrandera Shire for close to five years and a councillor for near 17 years I am completely shocked and horrified to the core by this statement. In fact I, on behalf of the community and Narrandera Shire Council, expect to receive a public apology.
In relation to “they have these crime problems,” crime in Narrandera is relatively low. At no time did Lorraine Lyons in the article printed November 28, 2015 mention racism. In fact, one of the headlines was “Why we can no longer ignore Wagga’s most pressing social problem”. The story did mention Dareton and Lake Cargelligo.
I would like to ask what gives Mr Burmeister the right or evidence to say such a thing much less the DA for printing it? I would also like to ask what relevance does the fact that you had received two of Rotary’s highest awards to do with the story or did the journalist think it would give the story more credibility? I have been associated with service clubs Lions and Apex over many years and have been a long-time member of Rotary and to my knowledge the mayor of Moree’s husband is president of their Rotary Club.
You also go on to say no one will give them a job! I will now put on my private hat. In our own business for 35 years we have employed many Indigenous people as have many other employers including council.
In September 2014, Narrandera Shire held the Local Government Aboriginal Network conference that her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir opened. The conference was attended by Aboriginal people from all walks of life from NSW. Council has also in collaboration with the elders built a wall in the Marie Bashir Park to recognise Aboriginal families. At our three levels of schooling in Narrandera at the school prize nights last week, Indigenous students were awarded for their achievements. Our shire’s Community Strategic Plan was developed through a community engagement process and the objectives included are: a positive sense of community, inclusive and welcoming community, celebration and protection of our cultural heritage and identity, a supportive community, innovative community project that involves people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, a shire that embraces and prepares its young people and a safe community.
Narrandera, like many other communities, does have ongoing challenges with youth offenders including the Aboriginal community. However, there is much activity happening at the moment in the Narrandera shire to facilitate programs for Aboriginal youth.
The Aboriginal community is implementing a range of projects including one involving drama in collaboration with some of the local churches and the council has been active in bringing the parties together. The Links to Learning program over several years has been a huge effort.
Council is also currently recruiting for an Aboriginal trainee in our Water and Sewer Department. In recent times two of council’s existing Aboriginal staff have undertaken training in cultural assessment.
Recently the Journey to Recognition organisation visited Narrandera. The journey is an epic relay across Australia campaigning for the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the constitution and to ensure there is no place for discrimination in our founding legal document.
I could provide other examples but I trust this letter demonstrates Narrandera’s willingness to engage and support the Aboriginal community.
We are not a racist shire and nor do we treat Aboriginal or any other culture like pigs – therefore as I stated before, I expect a public apology.
Cr Jenny Clarke
Narrandera Shire Council Mayor
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