Both Yarra and Darebin Councils voted recently to change the way they mark January 26, from 2018 onwards.
Yarra Mayor, Cr Amanda Stone said the changes have been informed by in-depth conversations with the local Aboriginal community, as well as feedback from the broader Yarra community.
“The overwhelming sentiment from our Aboriginal community is that January 26 is a date of sadness, trauma and distress. They have told us that this is not a day of celebration, but a day of mourning,” said Cr Stone.
“We also commissioned an independent survey of nearly 300 non-Indigenous people in Yarra, which showed strong support for change. 78.6% of broader community respondents supported the idea of Council holding an event to acknowledge Aboriginal experiences of January 26.
“In recognition of our Aboriginal community’s experiences, we will hold a small, culturally-sensitive event acknowledging the loss of culture, language and identity felt by the community on January 26.
“We will also be undertaking community education to help people better understand the Aboriginal community’s experiences of this date,” she said.
“In the last 12 months there has been a groundswell of community support for change from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people across the country. The community is looking for leadership on this issue.
“People can still have their barbeques and parties on the January 26 public holiday, but I hope our stance encourages people to stop and think about what this date really means in the history of our nation.
“A celebration of national identity should be inclusive of all Australians. 26 January is not an appropriate date because it marks the beginning of British colonisation and the loss of culture, language and land for Australia’s First Peoples,” said Cr Stone.
In addition, Council will no longer hold a citizenship ceremony on January 26. However, it will continue to hold the bimonthly ceremonies on other days throughout the year.
Read the Council’s full resolution here
The City of Darebin in Melbourne’s north, which included suburbs of Northcote, Thornbury, Preston and Reservoir, voted on Monday night to follow the lead of neighbouring Yarra Council in moving its Australia Day events from January 26.
Emotional Indigenous community members held up an Aboriginal flag and gave councillors a standing ovation as the decision was handed down.
A council report said there was a surge in community support to change the date.
It said while Australia Day marked the arrival of the first British ships in 1788, it had become known as Invasion Day among many Indigenous Australians and was a day of “sorrow and mourning.”
Darebin Mayor Kim Le Cerf said it was time to stop unnecessarily excluding Indigenous people on January 26.
“It cannot truly be a national day when the oldest part of our nation cannot hold it equally with the rest us,” she said. “It is time to set it right.”
At least another two councils – Moreland and Hepburn Shire – are also debating whether to join the battle to change the date of Australia Day.
Councillors voted to replace the ceremony with a “culturally appropriate event” and to dump all references to Australia Day, including renaming its Australia Day Awards the “Darebin Community Awards”.
The Victorian Local Governance Association issued this Media Statement supporting Yarra’s decision.
Yarra Mayor: This is why we unrecognised Australia Day
Amanda Stone, 19 August, The Age
Melbourne’s City of Darebin council decides to dump Australia Day ceremonies
Elias Clure, ABC News
More councils eye changing the date of Australia Day after Yarra Council push
Tom Cowie, 17 August, The Age
Know the facts about Jan 26, says Wurundjeri Elder
Laura Morelli, NITV
City of Yarra council’s ‘attack on Australia Day’ angers Malcolm Turnbull
Elias Clure, ABC News
Darebin, Hepburn, Hobart and Fremantle councils are also considering their stance on January 26 celebrations. Read more here
Reconciliation Victoria supports a continuing national conversation about shifting our national day from January 26. Such a conversation would help us reflect on who are as a nation, what we stand for, and what date in our history best reflects those values and attributes.
Read Reconciliation Victoria’s Celebrating Australia Day 2017 Reflection Piece from January this year.
Last Updated: August 23, 2017 at 1:29 pm