Scaling back the opening prayer at the commencement of City of Greater Bendigo council meetings should not be seen as a wholesale dumping or rejection of the practice.
Yes, it reflects the modern and increasingly diverse society we are part of, but it also allows each individual a chance to be just that - an individual.
Mayor Jennifer Alden this week said our city's diversity continues to grow, and that this approach represents a commitment to being more inclusive and welcoming all people who attend meetings.
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Further, the fact that our municipality extends across both Dja Dja Wurrung and Taungurung Country, the time has well and truly come to acknowledge this more accurately and respectfully.
The mayor's opening statement to put aside all personal interests and biases reflects the sentiments of the previous prayer, but the silent reflection affords everyone an equal chance for their own thoughts, prayers or otherwise.
Continuing the long held tradition of a prayer and religious observance at the start of each meeting implied that all in attendance were accepting of this practice, when in reality we know this is not the case.
Changes that afford each councillor and council officer engaged as part of the meeting the opportunity for their own silent prayer, or to simply collect their thoughts and reflect on the solemnity of the meeting about to unfold reflects the world we are all part of today.
What is way more important than whether or not a prayer is offered at the start of a meeting is the acceptance that councillors and council officers will carry out their duties in accordance with the Local Government Act, and that they will maintain a healthy respect for one another and for one another's views.
After a year like no other, and with any number of complex and intricate challenges still ahead of us, what matters way more than what our leaders say or think, is what they actually do. If 2020 was a year of so many unprecedented situations, obstacles and tough times, it would be foolish to think 2021 will be easy.
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