Camden Council has pledged to employ an indigenous youth each year with the introduction of a new dedicated traineeship program.
The position specifically for indigenous youths, which was unanimously passed at the last council meeting, was proposed by councillor Penny Fischer, who recently came under fire for declining to read an acknowledgement of country at meetings.
Cr Fischer was criticised in social media, by mayor Lara Symkowiak and indigenous elder Uncle Ivan Wellington, for her decision not to read the acknowledgement, which recognises the Dharawal people as traditional owners of the land.
The councillor said at the time that she felt the acknowledgement was “tokenistic” and she would prefer the council instead do something that would genuinely help local indigenous people.
“This is me putting my money where my mouth is,” Ms Fischer said. “I find this is the most meaningful way that I can help indigenous young people, and that’s what I expressed to several Aboriginal elders at the Appin Massacre memorial recently.”
Ms Fischer said she has long thought about introducing a scholarship program to Camden Council, but thought traineeships were a better alternative.
Designed for indigenous people under 21 years of age, the trainee position would alternate each year between administrative and outdoor work.
“I had thought of scholarships in the past, but I’d prefer council offer something that we’re good at,” she said.
“So, we could just give people a cash scholarship, but that’s not what we’re good at; we’re good at administration and business, things that we can really offer someone else a chance to do. I’m of the mind that instead of just handing out cash and grants, we should do something in kind and also deliver the best value for our rate-payers.”
Ms Fischer said she had liaised with the Tharawal Aboriginal Corporation to deliver the best proposal possible.
She will also discuss the traineeship program for Wollondilly and Campbelltown councils with the Macarthur Regional Organisation of Councils.