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Councils shun Australia Day citizenship ceremonies

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Some councils have decided not to hold Australia Day citizenship ceremonies after the federal government said it is no longer mandatory to hold ceremonies on January 26.

Linda Scott
Linda Scott: ALGA backs changes to date

The move reflects a sea change in the way the community, and grassroots political organisations, are coming to regard the national holiday, particularly in light of what it means for Indigenous Australians.

City of Hobart this week passed a recommendation that from 2024  its January citizenship ceremony will be held in the three days prior to or after January 26, following changes to the federal government’s Citizenship Ceremonies Code announced in December.

“This recommendation is in line with the council’s previous policy decision in 2017 to move the citizenship ceremony to an alternative date,” council said in a statement.

At the time of that decision, Council decided to go ahead with January 26 ceremonies to avoid ‘politicising’ the day after they were threatened with being stripped of the right to hold any ceremonies at all.

A report to Council by community programs manager Kimbra Parker and connected city director Jacqui Allen, dated January 9, says Australia Day citizenship ceremonies are “a divisive issue within the broader community and may attract some negative feedback”.

It also notes that “there is a much greater understanding that 26 January is not a day of celebration for all citizens”.

City of Sydney spurns January 26 ceremony

City of Hobart’s decision came just days after City of Sydney Council  decided to move its citizenship ceremony away form Australia Day.

In a statement Lord Mayor Clover Moore said in light of last year’s announcement, “the City has decided to change the date of its citizenship ceremony this year to 27 January.”

She also said City of Sydney also “strongly supports changing the date of Australia’s national day to one that can be fully embraced and celebrated by all Australians”.

In June 2011, Council amended the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statement in its Corporate Plan to acknowledge the events of 26 of January as “invasion”.

It also acknowledged the establishment of a convict outpost on Sydney Harbour “had far reaching and devastating impacts on the Eora Nation, including the occupation and appropriation of their traditional lands”.

Melbourne Councils move date

The inner northern Melbourne council of Merri-bek held its citizenship ceremony on January 24, following a recommendation by its First Nations Advisory Committee. 

Angelica Panopoulos

It followed a decision in 2017 to stop celebrating Australia Day on January 26 and advocate for a change of the date it is celebrated.

 “We will always listen to Traditional Owners and our First Nations community about matters that are important to them. January 26 is a painful day for many in our community, and isn’t the right date to celebrate,” Merri-bek Mayor Angelica Panopoulos said. 

 “It’s the responsibility of individual councils to be responsive and respect the views of our local communities.”

Other councils that have moved Australia Day away from January 26, citing consideration for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, include Victoria’s Yarra City and Darebin councils.

Rights reinstated

Darebin and Yarra councils previously lost their right to hold ceremonies after also moving away from a January 26 ceremony in 2017.

While their authority to conduct citizen ceremonies was reinistated after the federal government announced the changes to the code, a Darebin council spokeswoman told Government News Council is still deciding what its new citizenship ceremonies would look like.

“Council officers have now commenced engagement with the Traditional Owners and the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee to inform and shape the delivery of any future citizenship ceremonies,” Council said in a statement.

Yarra has said it was “delighted to once again be able to host citizenship ceremonies in the City of Yarra” and would comply with the amended Australian Citizenship Code to hold citizenship ceremonies three days either side of January 26 in future. 

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has endorsed the federal government’s “common sense decision” to allow more flexibility for councils to hold citizenship ceremonies.

ALGA said we have consistency advocated to the Government for councils to decide the scope of Australia Day activities based on consultation with their communities,” National President Linda Scott said.

“Common sense has prevailed as Australia Day is an important recognition of our diverse origins and what it means to be Australian.

“It’s the responsibility of individual councils to be responsive and respect the views of our local communities.” 

The post Councils shun Australia Day citizenship ceremonies appeared first on Government News.



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