Council propose committee for bicentennial celebration

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With the echoes of Canberra’s centennial celebrations still ringing clear, Wollongong City Council has announced their plans for a 2015-2016 Wollongong bicentennial celebration.

Councillor Chris Connor proposed at Monday’s council meeting that a Committee of Council be formed to develop events and activities to celebrate 200 years of settlement.

“These celebrations are to be inclusive and recognise the multiple cultural stories that make up the heritage of our City,” Councillor Connor explained in his notice of motion.

While council aim to commemorate settlement, many within the Aboriginal community of Wollongong believe there is no reason to applaud 200 years of European occupation.

“It wouldn’t be a celebration for us,” said Sharralyn Robinson from the Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council.

“Maybe if there had been a treaty back then or some agreement, but there wasn’t,” Ms Robinson explained.

Council has taken these beliefs into consideration. The notice of motion put forth on Monday evening states, “The Committee acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land who occupied the region before European settlement … [and] acknowledge sensitivities surrounding the impact European settlement has had on the local Aboriginal community.”

Michael Organ, author of Illawarra & South Coast Aborigines, local historian and activist in Wollongong believes that the bicentennial event should not be named a celebration but rather a commemoration of the past 200 years.

“Be honest, be truthful, be open about the past,” he explained.

“For some it’s a celebration, but for others it just doesn’t gel … there is a lot of unfinished business for some people.”
“If you are going to commemorate the past 200 years it should be about remembrance, achievements and mistakes,” Mr Organ said.

The Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council will insist that a Koori Aboriginal member be appointed to the Bicentennial Committee to represent the Aboriginal community.

Council is yet to announce any specific events or dates for the bicentenary. Specific activities will be decided upon and planned once the committee has been officially been appointed.

A Celebration of Multiculturalism in Wollongong

Video by: LORIN REID
Audio Slideshow by: SHARRI LEMBRYK

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