The City of Melbourne has thrown its support behind changing the date of Australia Day and, as the state’s most prominent council, we love to see even a small step.
Councillors voted on Tuesday to lobby the Federal Government to change the date from January 26 and decline $1 million in federal funding for celebratory events in the CBD.
But it’s a pretty low-risk move. The council said it would continue to host citizenship ceremonies on the day and issue permits for the Victorian government’s parade if the government didn’t change the date of Australia Day.
Considering Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said there were no plans to move the national day, it looks like nothing will actually change in the City of Melbourne. Again, we praise them for taking a stand though because they’ll no doubt cop criticism from conservatives for it.
The move came after 1,600 residents were surveyed on the issue and almost 60 per cent were in favour of changing the date.
Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said at the council meeting she loved celebrating Australia Day but the City of Melbourne needed to represent the values and beliefs of its constituents.
“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,” Capp said.
“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.”
Capp said the decision was intended to promote reconciliation and unity within the community.
“This debate tonight is not about creating arguments or division. It is about how and when we can bring everyone … together to celebrate what it means to be Australian,” she said.
“We won’t be changing why we want to celebrate Australia Day. We’re not changing or proposing to change how we celebrate Australia Day, but we are joining the ever chorus of voices asking the federal government to change when we celebrate what it means to be Australian.”
Co-chair of the First People’s Assembly of Victoria Geraldine Atkinson expressed support for the decision and said it’s been long time but at least it was happening now.
“Our community has been protesting January 26 celebrations since 1938 because celebrating invasion and genocide is offensive and hurtful. So yes, of course I’m pleased to see organisations and councils finally starting to listen and take action,” she tweeted.
“Governments at all levels need to decide if they want to perpetuate the collective slap in the face that is celebrating 26 January or whether they want to put some effort into finding other days that will help bring everyone together.”
However, many advocates believe changing the date isn’t enough and Australia Day should be scrapped entirely until we have social justice for all First Nations people and legal restitution in the form of Land Rights and Treaty. But unfortunately it’s pretty unlikely that’ll happen aaaaaany time soon.