Coles defends Acknowledgement of Country on receipts

Coles is standing by its recent decision to include the Acknowledgement of Country on its receipts despite criticism by some Indigenous elders, who slammed the move as "unnecessary".

And while Wurundjeri elder Ian Hunter called the decision an "overreach", one Indigenous academic told Yahoo News Australia it had been "taken out of context".

The supermarket giant, which is one of Australia's largest employers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, recently added the statement at the bottom of its receipts.

Coles receipt including an Acknowledgement of Country
Coles, one of Australia's largest employers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, is standing by its move to include the Acknowledgement of Country on its receipts. Source: Herald Sun

"Coles Group acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We recognise their strength and pay our respects to Elders, past, present and emerging," the message reads.

"Coles Group extends that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and recognises their rich cultures and continuing connection to land and waters," it adds.

This however came under scrutiny, with Mr Hunter stating that the move is not just "unnecessary", but is also a "real overreach".

"For it to have more meaning it would be better for Coles to localise the message on receipts for specific areas, for example Coles in Darebin could acknowledge the Woiwurrung people," Hunter was quoted in an interview with the Herald Sun.

"The Acknowledgement of Country shouldn't be taken lightly... I'm getting fed up with this, it's a real overreach."

Coles proud of Acknowledgment of Country

Coles however defended its move saying that it is "proud" to include the Acknowledgement of Country on its receipts.

"With more than 2,500 stores nationally and as one of Australia's largest employers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Coles Group is proud to include an Acknowledgement of Country on our receipts," a Coles spokesperson said.

"We work hard to create opportunities for Indigenous peoples, organisations, communities and customers to engage with our business and continue to increase understanding, value and recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, histories, knowledge and rights."

Indigenous academic praises Coles: 'Quite in awe of them'

Coles' move to add the statement on its receipts however has been welcomed by other members of the Indigenous community.

Associate Professor Emma Lee from the Swinburne University of Technology, who is a Trawlwulwuy woman from Tebrakunna country, told Yahoo News Australia that Coles' decision to include the Acknowledgement of Country is "a natural progression" of a long history of working with Indigenous people.

"The sad thing is it has been taken out of context," Lee told Yahoo News, stating that Coles has been deeply involved with the indigenous community for many years. "The Acknowledgement of Country is a natural progression."

Coles sign that reads:
Coles was also slammed on Facebook for posting a sign in support of a referendum on Indigenous constitutional recognition in its stores. Source: Facebook

Coles was also recently lambasted on Facebook for wading into political issues by posting a sign that reads: "The time has come for a referendum on Indigenous constitutional recognition" in its stores, which also has Lee's support.

Lee says that the message on the sign, despite criticism, is actually the perfect issue to be championed.

"There is no public arena for Coles to take on public issues," Lee said, reiterating that this has been taken out of context and that the supermarket has been working with Indigenous communities for years.

"In isolation, yes, but looking at the background... This is corporate leadership. Where few others are standing up, they understand their call. I am actually quite in awe of them."

"It takes more effort to stand up than to sit down... It's braver, knowing this could hit their bottom line," Lee further said, adding that having a company such as Coles supporting Indigenous Constitutional Recognition lets ordinary Australians know that this is OK.

Macca's missed the mark

Lee also stated for the record that Coles' moves are in contrast to McDonald's, which in May introduced a drink that used native wattleseed – an Indigenous-significant native plant.

McDonald's was criticised by customers on Twitter, who questioned the use of the wattleseed in marketing its new drink named "Australiano".

Lee, in an earlier interview with Yahoo News, mentioned that the McDonald's decision to launch the drink was "cultural appropriation of scale" and called it a "branding exercise that shifts the attention away from Aboriginal people as owners and custodians of our food resources for 60,000 years."

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