THE Ellison District Council’s work to acknowledge the deaths of Aboriginal people at Waterloo Bay in May 1849 through its Reconciliation Monument Wording project has been recognised at the National Local Government Awards.
The project won the Promoting Indigenous Recognition category, which acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were the first inhabitants of the nation and that their unique culture and history is valued.
The Elliston District Council’s project was the only one from South Australia to win one of the 10 category awards.
The council’s chairman Kym Callaghan said the council was “really pleased” as it was recognition for what everyone went through, both in 1849 and, more recently, in getting the wording in place.
“The whole coastal trail project was hard to work through – we had the funding pulled at one stage – but the council pushed ahead with it,” he said.
“Then we got the reconciliation monument up and that went up alright but we struggled over the wording.
“Getting recognition for the wording reaffirms that what we did, that the decision we made was the right one,” Mr Callaghan said.
He said making a decision on the wording, in particular the use of the word massacre, was not one the council had taken lightly.
Mr Callaghan said it was only after months of meetings with people both for and against the wording and the Wirangu that the council felt comfortable voting on the wording.
“At the time we made sure everyone had an opportunity to say their piece and hear from the Wirangu and it wasn’t easy but that’s democracy,” Mr Callaghan said.
Mr Callaghan said the Elliston reconciliation monument and wording was the first of its kind in South Australia.
He said it was exciting for the council to receive such a high level of recognition for the project and he thought the Wirangu community would be excited about it too.
Mr Callaghan said council representatives would travel to Canberra on June 19 to accept the award and for the announcement of the winner of the National Excellence in Local Government award.
“I would hope and expect that we would also have a couple of Wirangu people with us in Canberra,” Mr Callaghan said.
“I certainly wouldn’t feel right accepting the award without them there.”