• Protestors and police at a black lives matter protest in Wollongong. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
Jerrinja woman Hayley Longbottom says she's "not surprised" by a motion lodged by in the Shoalhaven City Council calling for an apology to police officers for recent Black Lives Matter protests. She says there's no reason to apologise.
Keira Jenkins

26 Jun 2020 - 2:43 PM  UPDATED 26 Jun 2020 - 2:43 PM

The Aboriginal community on the New South Wales South Coast has criticised a motion put forward to the Shoalhaven City Council this week, which called for an apology for the Black Lives Matter rallies.

The motion, put forward by councillor Greg Watson last week, called for the council to apologise to police officers on behalf of "the silent majority of our residents for the outrageous way they have been treated by irresponsible demonstrators in recent weeks".

Local Jerrinja woman and Aboriginal health worker Hayley Longbottom said the motion put forward by Councillor Watson did not surprise her.

"It comes to me as no surprise, I'm not in any way, shape or form shocked by that particular councillor to have those views and to make comments like that given the history of our Shoalhaven Council in regards to our people here locally," she said.

"It doesn't surprise me at all but what it does is fire us up to do something about that.

"Like what are we going to do about that, how are we going to get the council and the councillors on board to actually understand what the Black Lives Matter rally is about?

"It isn't just a moment in time. This has been a rally for the past 230 years.

"It's come to light over the past month or so but it's not a bandwagon that you can jump on and jump off. We need the council to be permanently on so we can start to mend and start making some real change in our communities."

'No need for an apology'

Ms Longbottom said there had been no violence associated with local protests. 

"I felt there was no need for an apology because there wasn't any violence associated with the protests or anything," she said.

The motion was later altered at the council meeting on Tuesday, removing criticism of the rallies, instead focusing on thanking emergency services for their work.

The ABC reported that Councillor Watson, who lodged the original motion, said his intent had been misrepresented.

"The intent was nothing to do with Aboriginals," he said.

"Instead it was white activists trying to use Aboriginals to exacerbate the situation to their benefit.

"I have been characterised as anti-Aboriginal, but it's an absolute load of nonsense."

 Ms Longbottom said a photo that has been circulating of Councillor Watson with a burning Aboriginal flag at Nowra in 1982 "speaks for itself".

The ABC reported Councillor Watson had apologised for his involvement in a "media stunt" where the photo was taken.

Ms Longbottom said while there have been some steps in the right direction in the relationship between the Shoalhaven City Council and the local Aboriginal community, it is still "challenging", and she'd like to see more commitment to reconciliation from the council.

"It's been a challenging one," she said.

"We've made some leeway; we've got the Aboriginal Consultative Group within the Shoalhaven Council, so that's awesome.

"But I also think that's not enough either; we probably need to take it a step further.

"We're talking about reconciliation, and we just feel that services like our council, they need to come to that party of reconciliation."