All local councils in Australia will no longer be required to hold citizenship ceremonies on Invasion Day thanks to new Federal Government codes allowing them to instead be three days before or after January 26.

The government announced on Friday a new version of the code that governs when citizenship ceremonies can be held will come into effect next year. Ceremonies can be held from January 23 to January 29.

The controversial rule to force councils to hold ceremonies on January 26 only was introduced by the former Coalition government in 2017.

Two Melbourne councils — the City of Yarra and Darebin City Council — had previously declared they would not hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26 in solidarity with First Nations people. They were subsequently stripped of their powers to hold citizenship ceremonies at all.

Those councils will also get those powers back when Labor reverses the rule.

It’s good news, but the motivations behind it are not at all what we hoped for from this Labor government.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles said giving councils more flexibility was a “pragmatic change”, but emphasised that the government “expected” councils to still hold citizenship ceremonies on Invasion Day.

“It is the Australian government’s strong expectation that councils conduct ceremonies on January 26,” he said.

“The Australian government implores councils to have new citizens as their key focus, recognising that many community members want to complete their journey to Australian citizenship in connection with Australia Day.

“The government’s priority is to ensure that, where people have made the choice to become Australia citizens, they are afforded that opportunity in their own communities, with friends and family, in a timely way.”

Giles said the reason for the code change was actually to save councils money on public holiday wages.

He said several councils had indicated that they wanted to stop holding citizenship ceremonies on the public holiday because of higher operating costs.

But Giles will obviously lap up all the praise from voters who want better recognition of First Nations people in this country, even though he didn’t do this for them. Sigh.