• Dubbo Regional Council. (Facebook: Dubbo Regional Council)Source: Facebook: Dubbo Regional Council
Dubbo Regional Council's deputy mayor has called for fellow councillor Kevin Parker to step down after he was caught out sending a racist 'joke' via email.
Keira Jenkins

9 Mar 2020 - 11:21 AM  UPDATED 9 Mar 2020 - 11:22 AM

Dubbo Regional Council's deputy mayor is calling for change in the wake of fellow councillor Kevin Parker being caught out sending a racist 'joke' via email.

Stephen Lawrence said he will move a motion during the council's next meeting later this month, that he hopes will increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enrolled to vote ahead of NSW's local council elections in September.

He said he also hopes the motion will increase the level of Indigenous representation on Dubbo Council.

"I decided it would be a good idea for council to respond in a positive way and send not just a message of support to the Aboriginal community but also take some positive steps of a practical nature," he said.

"I'm proposing to move a motion at the next Dubbo Regional Council meeting to ask the council to prepare an Aboriginal voter engagement and enrolment policy.

"The purpose of that would be to get the council staff and the council as an organisation to conduct a series of events that would ensure that we are engaging with potential Aboriginal candidates."

'He should resign'

Mr Lawrence said he thinks Kevin Parker should step down from his duties as a councillor.

"I think that when an elected member is in a position where Aboriginal people and young people in particular are hearing from him or her, harmful stereotypes, that that elected official should consider their position," he said.

"I think that Kevin Parker should resign, he should resign but that's a matter for him and a code of conduct committee will be underway in due course."

After NITV News broke the story almost a fortnight ago, Mr Parker told the ABC that there was "no malice meant" by the email he shared.

But Mr Lawrence said that is not good enough, Dubbo Council needs to take action to support the region's Indigenous community.

"It's a terrible thing that he did," he said.

"He characterises it as a thoughtless thing but I think any reasonable person would see it's more than that. 

"But it's never a bad thing for views like this to come out like this because then they can be challenged, they can be understood as existing and government can respond in an appropriate way.

"I think an appropriate way for Dubbo Regional Council to respond would be to make sure Aboriginal people who want to be on the roll are on the roll and that will in turn help to elect Aboriginal people to council."

'Not adequate'

Currently there are no Aboriginal councillors on Dubbo Regional Council, but they are not alone, with councils all over New South Wales lacking Indigenous representation.

Of 128 councils in NSW, after the last local election in 2016/2017 just 18 had any Indigenous councillors, according to Office of Local Government Data. 

In fact, according to the office's Candidate and Councillor Diversity report, the number of Indigenous councillors decreased in 2017 from the last election period in 2008.

Mr Lawrence said he hopes to change this, at least for Dubbo Council.

"I would hope that in the future, having an Aboriginal councillor in Dubbo is not a rarity  - it has happened in the past - we've had two, Rod Towney and Warren Mundine, but I don't think that's adequate," he said.

"With the Aboriginal population of Dubbo at around 15 to 20 percent, depending on the reckoning, I would like to see a situation where we invariably have Aboriginal people on council.

"I would also like to a situation where Aboriginal people are on the electoral roll at the same rates as all other people.

"I know from my work in the region that there are many, many Aboriginal people who are disengaged with the electoral process for a whole range of reasons and are not on the roll.

"I have met a range of Aboriginal people who have said things to me like 'we don't vote' or 'I don't vote' and there is just a fundamental level of alienation and disengagement that has a whole range of historical causes, not least the fact that for so many decades we excluded Aboriginal people from the roll in Australia.

"That has so many dramatic effects, and that is a reason there is such an underepresentation on the electoral roll and I would like to see that consigned to the dustbin and have Aboriginal people on council and all Aboriginal people voting."

BOQ suspends employee over racist 'joke' sent via email
A Bank of Queensland employee and Dubbo Regional councillor has been suspended from his duties at the bank while a "full investigation" is conducted into a racist 'joke' that was sent via company email.