The twelve councillors and Mayor Amanda Findley are smoked into Council.

The new Shoalhaven Council has been sworn in, breaking with tradition by beginning with a smoking ceremony, led by local Aboriginal elder Uncle Paul McLeod, a welcome song by Shakeela Williams composed with William Barton, and a welcome to country from Aboriginal elder, Aunty Ruth Simms. The new traditions of this Council will build on inclusion, reconciliation and consultation.

New Mayor, Amanda Findley, began as she intends to continue, with a call for all Councillors to put aside political interests and past animosity, and honour the terms of their oath to work together for the betterment of the people of the Shoalhaven. “That emphasis on people,” according to Mayor Findley, will inform and colour her Council’s approach to everything that is done over the next four years.

In a ceremony which recognised both the history and the future of the Shoalhaven , Councillors entered the chamber, paired with representatives from the community of the Shoalhaven, to take their place, as the strains of the didgeridoo echoed through the building.

The three Greens councillors take their seats in the Chamber.

The Ordinary Meeting which followed began with two excellent debates on complex issues central to The Greens recent campaign: aged care provision, and the Huskisson view.

Shoalhaven Heads has run out of land suitable for the kind of aged care facility the community there has been working towards for nearly 15 years. Compromises seem the only way out, involving complex deals with State and Federal agencies. The Greens voted against the motion, although it was carried. Clr Nina Cheyne’s closing suggestion of approaching the Aboriginal Land Council about their centrally located land with an undertaking for provision to be inclusive of indigenous aged needs, demonstrated the kind of fresh approach being introduced by a Green to Council.

In the debate that followed on the Huski view, the Greens on this occasion voted with the ‘Independents’, declaring that the car park adjacent to the wharf at Huski be re-zoned as ‘community property’ over which only Council would have final say as to use and changes.

At the November meeting Council will receive a report on the public response to the Huskisson Management Plan in order to begin the process of considering the best way forward with the Shoalhaven’s ‘jewel in the crown’.

The very first deliberations of this new Council indicate the level of cooperation that is possible, as well as the very real challenges for the Council ahead.

Rosie Wade & Mike Leggett

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