Mayor stands his ground

Mayor stands his ground

Wattle Range Council has given its support to its Mayor Des Noll to defy a request by the Millicent RSL and he will still include a First Nations Acknowledgement of Country in his customary Anzac Day address at the Cross of Sacrifice.

The request from the Millicent RSL for Mayor Noll to omit the Acknowledgement of Country was made in two letters tabled at the monthly council meeting on Tuesday.

Mayor Noll said he was determined to include a First Nations Acknowledgement of Country in his April 25 speech along with a tribute to a fallen local soldier whose name appears on the cenotaph.

The Mayor said he had done so at the mid-morning service for the past three Anzac days and the Millicent RSL request was inappropriate.

He said he had made Reconciliation SA and other Adelaide officials aware of his concern at the request.

According to Mayor Noll, the state bylaws of the RSL do not apply as they are silent on the obligations of invited guests at such ceremonies.

Deputy Mayor Councillor Peter Dunnicliff said a motion was unnecessary as it was within the prerogative of the Mayor.

However, Cr David Walshaw moved a motion of support for the mayoral action as he said it was useful for the chamber to express a show of solidarity.

He described the RSL request as “outrageous” and one which “beggars belief”.

Cr Walshaw detailed some of the challenges faced by First Nations war veterans.

“When they returned to Australia, they were not allowed to have a drink in a hotel,” Cr Walshaw said.

“When they died, they were not buried in consecrated ground.

“Here we are in 2024 and we are having another crack at these warriors.”

Cr Dale Price said he was keen to hear the views of council chief executive Ben Gower who had been on active service in a war zone with the RAAF.

In response, Mr Gower said he was an RSL life member and he regarded Anzac Day as a time of remembering and reflecting.

“An Acknowledgement of Country was an appropriate way to respect indigenous wartime service,” Mr Gower said.

Cr Price also asked the Mayor to indicate what wording he would use for the Acknowledgement of Country.

In reply, Mayor Noll said he would highlight the vital wartime role played by First Nations people in serving the nation and how they had contributed to Australia being a place of diversity, democracy and freedom of speech.

Cr John Drew said he was aware the issue prompted mixed views.

He said a unanimous vote was needed and he urged his fellow councillors to think seriously about their votes.

“It is important to send a signal of support to First Nations people,” Cr Drew said.

Cr Sharon Cox said she felt the motion was not needed.

When put to a vote, it was passed 8-2.

Cr Cox opposed it along with newcomer Cr John Shelton who had not participated in the debate.

The SE Voice made Millicent RSL president Chris Mathias aware of the motion.

He did not want to comment on various matters other than to again say there would be an Acknowledgement of Country made by the Millicent RSL at the start of the mid-morning service on Anzac Day.

Meanwhile, the community-staged Anzac Day dawn service at Beachport will include an Acknowledgement of Country by local primary school students.

Millicent First Nations woman Jenny Rigney will be a member of the flag party and hoist the First Nations flag as she has done for many years.

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