Australia

City of Melbourne backs move to change controversial Australia Day date

Melbourne City Council joined the push to change the date of Australia Day on Tuesday night after a majority of councillors voted to advocate the federal government make the change.
Citizenship ceremonies will still happen on 26 January in the municipality, but the council will also support efforts to acknowledge First Nations’ perspectives of the day.
Permits for Australia Day celebrations around the city will still be granted.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has already ruled out changing the date, saying his government is prioritising enshrining an Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

It comes after a survey of 1,600 City of Melbourne residents showed almost 60 per cent of them support changing the date.
The survey – conducted by consultancy group RedBridge – also found the same proportion of respondents believed that Australia Day would probably be moved from 26 January within the next decade.
The five Traditional Owner organisations that make up the Eastern Kulin nation also unanimously supported changing the date.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp and six other councillors voted in favour of the motion, two voted against it, and one abstained.

Ms Capp said the council can “chew gum and walk at the same time” as it delivers services while also expanding its advocacy.
“We can deliver on roads, rates and rubbish, but we can also advocate in this case to the commonwealth government,” she told a council meeting.
“We have listened to what our Traditional Owners say, to what our constituents say. We have had a significant sample size in the survey that we’ve done, and we have the results.
“We represent the values and beliefs of our constituents, that is an important role that we play, and that’s a big part of the debate this evening.”

The City of Melbourne isn’t the first local council to push for changes to Australia Day.

In August 2017, the councillors of Melbourne’s Yarra City unanimously voted to no longer refer to 26 January as ‘Australia Day’. The council also ceased holding citizenship ceremonies on that date, though it remains a public holiday.
Then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull responded to the decision by removing the city’s ability to officiate citizenship ceremonies.
The Melbourne council of Darebin, which covers the suburbs of Northcote, Preston and Reservoir, followed suit.
Like Yarra, Darebin was stripped of its right to officiate citizenship ceremonies, with Mr Turnbull commenting that the decisions were an “attack on Australia Day”.
A month later, in September 2017, Moreland City Council made a resolution to support the #ChangeTheDate campaign and encouraged people “to reflect about what this date means in the history of our nation and its effect on our Aboriginal community”.
The council continues to hold citizenship ceremonies on the day while also advocating for the shifting of the date.

Sydney’s Inner West Council joined the Change the Date movement in November of 2019, confirming that it would no longer hold Australia Day celebrations on 26 January.

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