A Melbourne Council has gone rogue and, despite pressures from the Federal Government, has unanimously voted to not recognise Australia Day on its current day.
The Yarra city councillors voted to stop holding citizenship ceremonies on 26 January in an effort to stop those in their Aboriginal community involved in celebrations on what many see as a “painful and alienating day”.
The decision has divided those in the council and beyond – some fiercely supporting the decision while others have labelled the move as “idiocy”.
One that’s spoke out in support is Today Show host Karl Stefanovic, who admitted he also used to be in the camp to leave Australia Day as is.
“There is an argument in this country for Australia Day to be moved. What do you think? My initial response is what many would think ... ‘cmon, leave it alone. Indigenous and Torres Strait islanders, this is our day, all of us. Everyone come together. Commemorate but also celebrate. After all, that’s what we do on Anzac Day,” he said.
“But I’ve changed my mind. Having spoken to several people from those communities, I empathise. As hard as some want to ignore it, January 26 marks a day this land changed forever for one of the oldest and most beautiful cultures in the world.
The host referred to the traumatic history of Indigenous Australians, including current disparities between their health and that of other Australians.
“To this day, mortality rates for indigenous and Torres Strait islanders are alarming. It wasn’t until March 1962 the Menzies government finally gave the right to vote for all aboriginal people. We look back at the horror of the Stolen Generation ... Earlier in the 20th century, the White Australia Policy, then we look at what happened in Tasmania,” he explained.
“They are all facts and all incredibly painful. If we are to truly follow through with the apology and move forward together hand in hand, arm in arm, then I believe it must change. So let’s do it together. Certainly let’s debate it together.”
“Local councils are now on notice that if they politicise Australian citizenship, the government will see it as a breach of the [Australian citizenship ceremonies] code and take the appropriate action,” he said.
Amanda Stone, Mayor of Yarra, contested there was any such breach of the code in their decision.
“The code actually says you shouldn’t use a ceremony to promote a political agenda or a religious agenda or commercial agenda,” she said.
“We wouldn’t be intending to do that. We are simply considering changing when we hold our first citizenship ceremony of the year.”