DOWNGRADING one of the longest standing Aboriginal Advisory Committees in the state was hotly contested at last week’s Armidale Regional Council meeting.
Structural changes could see the Gayinyaga Aboriginal Advisory Committee changed to a reference group.
ARC councillor Ian Tiley said if the recommendation was carried, Gayinyaga would be wiped out.
“That will bring all hell down on us,” Cr Tiley said.
“Let these communities go to their elders and discuss it in turn, but for now, I see great wisdom in retaining the present committee.
“To downgrade the Gayinaga Aboriginal Advisory Committee to a reference group is a retrograde step and I suggest could be seen in some areas as an insult.”
Gayinyaga has advised Council on the needs and priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the last 25 years.
The new Armidale Regional Aboriginal Advisory Committee would be formed with one representative from Guyra, Tingha and Armidale.
Each would bring forward the issues and ideas from their own reference groups.
Councillor Brad Widders, an Anaiwan man, said he felt the new structure would be more inclusive.
“We need to give them proper representation for the fact that they have different issues,” Cr Widders said.
“This is the best way so that every community gets their representation.”
Committee chairperson Veronica Strong said a reference group would not work.
“We’ve invited people from Tingha and Guyra to Gayinyaga – not one of them bothered to come,” Ms Strong said.
Council is yet to consult with Gayinyaga about the restructure.
“A reference group is no good to us, we are having good outcomes in this community and having a better relationship with Council,” Ms Strong said.
“I don’t care if Brad Widders is on Council, he doesn’t speak for this community.
“This community speaks for this community.”
The decision will be put to a workshop.