Councils Consider January 26

Councils around Australia are reviewing and changing how they mark January 26, with the Adelaide City Council Lord Mayor Martin Haese supporting a proposal for more inclusive events in the city on that date and Victorian Councils making significant changes to their events.

The Adelaide City Council has noted a proposal by its Reconciliation Committee that it recognises the impact of Australia Day celebrations and that it adds processes to events on that date to better recognise the history of Aboriginal peoples prior to European settlement. 

Reconciliation committee member Ivan-Tiwu Copley put forward the motion. He told the Advertiser that he felt Australia Day should start with recognising the First Nations people, followed by a welcome to country, and then “acknowledge the past and the history leading up to settlement and then move on”.

Lord Mayor Martin Haese supported the recommendation, saying the committee “really is a trailblazer”.

“It was a very respectful and, I think, constructive debate. I congratulated the team afterwards,” he said.

The Council has noted the recommendation in a September meeting, a non-binding recognition of the proposal.

In Victoria, Yarra and Darebin Councils in inner city Melbourne recently declared that they wouldn’t hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26, leading to the Federal Government removing their right to hold those ceremonies at any time.

Darebin resident and 3KND Aboriginal Radio worker Erica Higgins, who was at the meeting when that council made the change, said that it was a decision that made community members feel included.

“It was a great honour to feel that we could be involved in changing some of the things that haven’t made us feel fantastic over the years” she told Aboriginal Way.

“The council is helping us feel proud of being part of the greater nation of Australia, proud of our achievements, was a real honour and then to be at the actual council meeting where that happened” she said.

The Council voted 6-2 in favour of a motion that said that “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, and is therefore not an appropriate date for an inclusive national celebration”.

The motion also called on the Council to lobby the federal government to change the date of Australia Day.

Ms Higgins explained why she and others would like the date to change.

“What I find often is difficult is Survival Day and other names that are given to it, it brings up a lot of unhappy memories for people.It’s not a day that makes us feel included, it’s not a day that feels like a celebration.

“It’s hard to think that there are newer people becoming Australians on that day when that day started some sad business for our people.The loss of land, the loss of language, the loss of culture.” she said.

Image:  Erica Higgins  (centre) with supporters following the Darebin Council decision about January 26

By Lucy Kingston

SANTS acknowledges that the land on which our office is based is the traditional lands for the Kaurna people and we respect their spiritual and cultural relationship with their country.