Ngambri people get public apology for ‘hurt and distress’
THE Barr government has been forced to publicly apologise to members of the Ngambri (Kamberri) community for the hurt and distress they have suffered as a result of its Indigenous Protocol.
The protocol recognises only the Ngunnnawal people as the traditional custodians of land within the ACT and surrounding regions.
The government has agreed to undertake a comprehensive review of the Indigenous Protocol after reaching a settlement with Ngambri elders Paul House and Leah House as part of a settlement ahead of Supreme Court hearings scheduled for next week.
In joint statement, Chief Minister Andrew Barr, Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury and indigenous affairs minister Rachel Stephen-Smith say that in 2002 the ACT government, following community consultation and acting on the advice of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, acknowledged the Ngunnawal people as the traditional custodians.
“This acknowledgement was subsequently formalised in an Indigenous Protocol, which has been used to guide the ACT Public Service and community in recognising the First People of this land,” the ministerial statement says.
“The territory acknowledges that Paul Girrawah House and Leah House, as well as other members of the Ngambri (Kamberri) people including those who they have called as witnesses in their case, have suffered hurt and distress as a result of the ACT Indigenous Protocol.
“The Territory apologises to the plaintiffs, their witnesses and other members of the Ngambri (Kamberri) community for the hurt and distress which they have suffered.”
The government now acknowledges that individuals and families who identify as Ngambri (Kamberri) are traditional custodians of land within the ACT and surrounding regions, and that other people and families may also identify as having a traditional connection to this land.
While the consultation and engagement process is underway the government says it will have an interim Indigenous Protocol that continues to acknowledge the Ngunnnawal people as traditional custodians of the ACT while also recognising any other people or families with connection to the ACT and region.
“In the 2022-23 Budget, the ACT government committed $3 million from the Healing and Reconciliation Fund for a community engagement and healing process. The review of the Indigenous Protocol will form part of this process and we will engage closely with the First Nations community and traditional custodian families to ensure this is done in an inclusive way that supports healing in the local community,” the statement says.
In August 2020 Paul House accused the ACT government of “stealing the identity away from Ngambri people on country. They’re stealing it, they’re trying to reinterpret, they’re trying to whitewash the true history of this country here in the ACT.”
In an interview with “CityNews” he said he had watched his children grow up with “Welcome to Ngunnawal” signs, while the Ngambri people continued to be written out of the ACT’s history.
“Our family [has] produced our genealogy, an evidence of our connection to country since the arrival of Europeans into the Kambri or the Ngambri region,” he said.
“We’ve proved connection right across the Canberra landscape and the ACT government totally ignores it.”
House said the ACT government recognised members of the Ngunnawal nation as descendants of the original inhabitants of this region, but there was no specific recognition of the Ngambri group outside of this broader acknowledgement.
In contrast, the federal government, in the House of Representatives, acknowledges the Ngambri and the Ngunnawal people as traditional custodians of the Canberra area, and so does the ANU.
‘Welcome to Ngambri country’, says Paul House
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