Reconciliation Victoria’s January 26th Position Statement and Suggestions for Councils
More and more councils around Australia are reconsidering their approach to January 26 in order to make it a day that acknowledges our true history and that represents all the people of our nation. In 2017, the National General Assembly of Local Government passed a resolution for the Assembly to encourage Australian councils to consider efforts they could take to lobby the Federal Government to change the date of recognition.
Reconciliation Victoria commends the approach of councils such as the Port Philip City Council and Ballarat City Council who this year will hold mourning ceremonies as part of their 2020 Australia Day commemorations. These ceremonies are an effort to acknowledge the issues surrounding the day and recognise the loss and hurt it represents for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We would also like to acknowledge other Victorian councils, such as Yarra, Darebin, Moreland, Moonee Valley and Mt Alexander, who are leading the way in reconsidering their approach to January 26 and consulting with Traditional Owners in their communities to inform their approach.
Reconciliation Victoria supports a continuing national conversation about shifting our national day from January 26. Such a conversation would help us reflect on who we are as a nation, what we stand for, and what date in our history best reflects those values and attributes.
Reconciliation Victoria encourages local councils and organisations commemorating the day to recognise the honoured place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our nation’s history, to be sensitive to the feelings of Aboriginal people who may see the day as one of mourning, and to see the day as an opportunity to promote understanding, respect and reconciliation.
There are some simple ways to approach 26th January respectfully, and acknowledge members of the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
In December, we wrote to the CEOs and Mayors of Victoria’s 79 councils to encourage councils who commemorate the day to acknowledge members of their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and to see the day as an opportunity to promote understanding, respect and reconciliation. Read our letter to the CEOs and Mayors here.
Survival/Invasion Day Events
Share The Spirit (Balit Narrun – Strong Spirit) Festival – Treasury Gardens, 12 – 7pm
Belgrave Survival Day – Bill Borthwick Park, Belgrave, 12 – 4.30pm
Narrm Invasion Day Protest – Parliament House, 11am – 2pm
Invasion Day Dawn Service – Kings Domain Resting Place, 5.30 – 6.30am
We-Akon Dilinja – a mourning reflection event in St Kilda – Alfred Square, 6.00 – 7.00am
Ballarat Survival Day Dawn Gathering – View Point, Lake Wendouree, 5:30 – 6:30am
Moonee Valley City Council – Bunjil’s Marroun Healing Ceremony – 5 mile creek reserve, 2 Government Rd, 5.30 – 6.30pm
Share the Spirit Festival and Belgrave Survival Day are seeking volunteers to help on the day. Visit the event Facebook pages to find out more.
Yarra and Darebin Councils voted in 2017 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 Darebin Mayor Susan Rennie’s Age opinion piece (15 Jan 2019): We are not anti-Australia Day, just not on January 26
The Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) issued this Media Statement supporting Yarra’s decision. The VLGA also recently clarified the legal rights of councils in relation to conducting Citizenship Ceremonies: The Prime Minister weighs in on Citizenship Ceremonies
In September 2017 Moreland Council joined Yarra and Darebin in deciding it would no longer refer to January 26 as Australia Day, and it supported action to change the date of Australia’s national day.
The successful motion, proposed by Greens councillor and deputy mayor Samantha Ratnam, states “January 26 marks the beginning of the British invasion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands and oppression of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.
Unlike the other councils, Moreland voted to keep citizenship ceremonies on January 26
Cr Ratnam “We took a big step in the right direction tonight. We have more work to do but we won’t stop until we achieve reconciliation and justice for the wrongs done to our First Nations people”.
Read more on Moreland’s website
The City of Darebin voted in August 2017 to move its Australia Day events from January 26.
A council report said there was a surge in community support to change the date. 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”. Read more
Visit the City of Darebin website for a full explanation of the rationale behind the decision.
Several other Victorian councils, including Ballarat, Mount Alexander, Monash and Hepburn Shire – have also debated whether to join the campaign to change the date of Australia Day, along with Hobart and Fremantle councils.
Last Updated: February 17, 2020 at 2:27 pm