Joan van Lieshout
Joan van Lieshout

Words stir Aboriginal 'divisions'

TWEED mayor Joan van Lieshout has sparked a major row with the Aboriginal community by firstly refusing to read a statement recognising the traditional owners of the land, then changing her mind and later saying she wants more information.

Some councillors fear she has stumbled into long-time divisions in the local Aboriginal community, and in doing so upset a majority of elders and community leaders, who have previously worked with the Council.

The issue exploded at last week's Council meeting when a local environmentalist added fuel to the fire, saying if the Mayor really wanted to help Aboriginal people she should convince her husband Peter van Lieshout to hand back to them the 1200-hectare property where he wants to build a village for 1000 people.

Cr van Lieshout initially said she would no longer read a statement at the beginning of Council meetings recognising local people of the Bundjalung nation because she believes it is divisive and may not recognise other Aboriginal groups.

But she went ahead and read the statement at last week's meeting after a change of heart and representations from various groups, including the Council's own Aboriginal Advisory Committee.

However by the end of the meeting she was defending her right to reconsider, saying: “I want to know for sure in my mind it is the Bundjalung people”.

“I've a right to get my facts right,” she added.

“There is at the moment a controversy over this. It is my duty to care- fully consider the issue.”

Her doubts have been defended by an elder of the Ngarakwal clan, Harry Boyd, who says his people are not Bundjalung but have long lived in parts of the Tweed.

Jackie McDonald, a member of the Council Aboriginal advisory committee, said it appeared the Mayor “had been influenced by a group of disgruntled people”. She said the statement recognising the Bundjalung people had been “penned” by former Council administrator Max Boyd.



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