Aboriginal leaders defend welcome to country fee

ABORIGINAL community leaders have defended the $200 fee for delivering a welcome to country saying it is not used for individual gain, and instead goes towards sending Aboriginal youth away for sport and Naidoc Week celebrations.

Orange Aboriginal Lands Council chief executive officer Annette Steele said councillors had no right to suggest the welcome should be a free service.

“Everyone else gets paid for their services,” she said.

“We have to create income for ourselves... it’s not a huge amount of money, we might only have $1500 to $2000 a year [in the fund].”

The Aboriginal Working Party chair Jamie Newman said the fee was part of protocol agreed to by Orange City Council.

“For council to come out and say they shouldn’t pay it... creates this issue that we as Aboriginal people don’t support Australia Day and we’ve supported it since its inception,” he said.

“To single out Aboriginal people because we didn’t do a welcome to country is childish... we are very actively involved in this community... these comments derail what we’re doing.”

Mr Newman said councillors should have raised the issue with the Aboriginal Working Party rather than at a public council meeting.

STORY: COUNCILLORS QUESTION WELCOME TO COUNTRY FEE

Ms Steele said a member of the Australia Day Committee was told two weeks prior to Australia Day that there were only four or five individuals endorsed to deliver the welcome and no one was available on the day.

But Australia Day committee chair Helen Corby said there was no communication between the two groups.

“It was just a break down in communication with our committee and their committee,” she said.

Ms Steele said the Australia Day committee should do more to involve the Aboriginal community in future events.

“There needs to be a collaborative approach and there needs to be a history lesson,” she said.

Mrs Corby welcomed the suggestion and said in the past Aboriginal community members had played an active role in celebrations

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