Australian state scraps Aboriginal acknowledgement
Melbourne: The Victorian state government in Australia on Thursday scraped its policy of forcing ministers to acknowledge traditional Aboriginal landowners at public events in a move that sparked criticism.
Premier Ted Baillieu said it was too politically correct and should no longer be compulsory.
"I am not seeking to be provocative, nothing has changed in particular in that regard," he told ABC Radio.
"We still encourage the welcome ceremony. I've simply said that ministers should respect indigenous communities and they should address these issues where appropriate.”
"That's what I do, they need to use their judgment about these things."
The traditional acknowledgement recognises that Australia has an ancient Aboriginal history and complex ownership and land stewardship systems stretching back thousands of years.
Wurundjeri elder Di Kerr said it was "common courtesy" to acknowledge traditional landowners at official events.
"They've really wiped us off the map, so to speak, by not acknowledging traditional owners," she told reporters.
"But I would really prefer that if anyone is going to acknowledge anyone, then they must do it with heart and good intentions."
Prominent Aboriginal academic and leader Mick Dodson implored the Victorian government to retain the acknowledgement, saying it was at the heart of the reconciliation movement.
"When you are sincerely recognised for who you are and what you contribute, you feel proud and connected," he said.
"I would challenge Victorians to continue to pay respects to the traditional owners."
Steve Bracks, a former Victorian premier, said the move would set back relations with the indigenous population.
"The thousands and thousands of times I started my speech with an Aboriginal welcome I always felt very strongly about it and never ever did I feel it was a wooden or rote presentation," he said.
"By saying it is being removed is effectively setting up a debate which I think will set us back."
Aborigines are Australia's first inhabitants with cultures stretching back tens of thousands of years. They have gone from numbering about one million at white settlement to just 470,000 -- less than two percent of the population.