A new Aboriginal Advisory Committee (AAC) has been formed to advise Council.
The members are:
- Phillip Bligh – long term local resident, extensive career in various State and Federal Government departments with Aboriginal portfolios. Extensive experience in local creative arts and cultural projects.
- BJ Duncan – long term local resident with extensive experience with local Aboriginal community initiatives. Current Chair of Darkinjung Local Aboriginal Land Council.
- Steve Ella – long term local resident with extensive experience in Aboriginal Health. Current Manager of the Nunyara Aboriginal Health Unit within the Central Coast Local Health District.
- Colleen Fuller – long term local resident with experience in various committees and organisations and a strong interest in local Aboriginal culture, politics and reconciliation.
- Vickie Parry – long term local resident with extensive experience in local Aboriginal service delivery (health, housing, and education). Current CEO of Barang Regional Alliance.
- Jake McDonald – lifelong local resident. Employed by the University of Newcastle in the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, and is completing a PhD on creating a healthy lifestyle program for Aboriginal fathers and their children.
- Monica McKenzie – extensive experience locally in Aboriginal Education, having worked in NSW Dept of Education in both primary and secondary schooling, plus University of Newcastle in higher education.
- Shahni Wellington – lifelong local resident. Communications specialist – former Indigenous Affairs Correspondent for the ABC and experience with both SBS and NITV. Founding member of the Central Coast Aboriginal Youth Reference Group.
- Wayne Merritt – long term local resident with extensive experience in Aboriginal health and wellbeing programs and a member of various local community and sporting groups.
Council noted a recommendation from the external assessors that it was current best practice for a First Nations person to Chair these types of committees.
“Council commits to discussing this subject at the first AAC meeting, and the Terms of Reference will be updated to reflect the outcome of this discussion if required,” a report tabled at the July 25 council-under-administration meeting stated.
Where a matter of Aboriginal heritage is considered to be significant to the broader interests of the local Aboriginal community, the Heritage and Culture Advisory Committee, which recently updated its terms of reference, will refer the matter to the AAC for consideration.
“The Convenors of both Committees will liaise to ensure related and relevant items are included within meeting agendas expeditiously, and representatives from one committee may be invited to participate in meetings of the other committee as required,” the tabled report noted.
The AAC will be comprised of representatives of groups aligned to traditional ownership interests, community services focused on improving the quality of life of the local First Nations community, and community members identifying as of Aboriginal ancestry, Council said.
The AAC will be responsible for providing advice and feedback to Council and staff on:
• Issues of significance to the Central Coast Aboriginal community.
• Council initiatives that aim to improve the quality of life of the Central Coast Aboriginal community.
• Approaches to address relevant social issues identified in the Community Strategic Plan.
• Approaches to address outcomes aligned to the Central Coast Council First Nations Accord..
The Committee came about from the Central Coast First Nations Accord which is an agreement between First Nations Leaders and Central Coast Council. It aims to set an agenda that will guide signatories on how best to work together and further reconciliation.