Yarra Council to consider Australia Day changes

Friday 11 August 2017

Yarra Council is considering changing the way it marks January 26, the Australia Day public holiday, following consultation with the local Aboriginal and broader Yarra communities.

A number of proposals are being considered, including holding a small, culturally-sensitive event acknowledging the loss of culture, language and identity felt by Aboriginal community on January 26, and supporting community education to help people better understand the Aboriginal community’s experiences of this date. 

The Council will also consider no longer holding one of its bimonthly citizenship ceremonies on January 26; as well as reviewing its annual community awards, traditionally known as Australia Day Awards, with a view to potentially re-naming them and moving them to a different date. 

The proposed changes have been informed by in-depth conversations with our local Aboriginal community. The overwhelming sentiment was that January 26 is a date of mourning, sadness, anger and distress for many Aboriginal people because it represents the beginning of the loss of culture, language and land, and the beginning of generations of trauma and suffering.

We also commissioned an independent survey of nearly 300 non-Indigenous people in Yarra, which showed strong support for change. 78.6% of broader community respondents supported the idea of Council holding an event to acknowledge Aboriginal experiences of 26 January.

In addition, the National General Assembly of the Australian Local Government Association recently passed a resolution encouraging all local councils to consider efforts to lobby the Federal Government to change the date of Australia Day.

Background

Yarra has a long-standing and collaborative relationship with the local Aboriginal community, and is proud to be a leader on Aboriginal issues within the Local Government sector. 

Suburbs such as Fitzroy and Collingwood were the birthplace of the Aboriginal rights movement in Victoria and a number of the state’s first Aboriginal health services. Many Aboriginal people have a strong connection to the area to this day.  

Council initiated consultations with the local Aboriginal community and broader community on the subject of January 26 following a Councillor motion, unanimously carried on 7 February 2017. 

The proposed changes follow a groundswell of community support for change from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people over the past 12 months, including a number of other local councils such as Fremantle, Hobart, Darebin, Monash and Moreland.

Read the proposed Council recommendation in full:

Council will debate and vote on the following resolution at its Council Meeting on Tuesday 15 August:

1. That:

(a) Council, from 2018 onwards, promote and hold a small-scale, culturally-sensitive event featuring a Smoking Ceremony on January 26 that acknowledges the loss of culture, language and identity felt by Aboriginal community on January 26;

(b) Council commit to a communications plan that focuses on broader community education to help people better understand Aboriginal community experiences of January 26 and to explain Council’s position on January 26;

(c) Council commit to translating a January 26 information sheet into the 6 most commonly spoken community languages in Yarra, and partner with the Yarra Settlement Forum and the Yarra Multicultural Advisory Group to distribute and promote;

(d) Council partner with Melbourne Aboriginal Youth Sport and Recreation Incorporated to run an education workshop for young Aboriginal people, run by and featuring a panel of local Aboriginal Elders with connections to Fitzroy, the establishment of important Aboriginal organisations and other achievements;

(e) Council in collaboration with the Municipal Association of Victoria, Victorian Local Government Association, Reconciliation Victoria and State Government departments to hold an event in the second half of 2017 to share this report and its recommendations;

(f) Council lobby and seek partnerships with State Government departments and other interested parties to acknowledge the Aboriginal community’s pain and disconnection with Australia on January 26, and seek opportunities to promote education about this in the wider community;

(g) Council contact Melbourne City Council and Songlines to see how Council can support and promote Share the Spirit Festival in 2018;

(h) Council cease referring to January 26 as Australia Day in all communications, to acknowledge the fact that this date commemorates the British invasion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands and is therefore not an appropriate date for an inclusive national celebration;

(i) Council refer to January 26 merely as January 26 until a more appropriate term is adopted 
nationally – a term which acknowledges the experiences of the people who inhabited the land for over 60,000 years prior to the raising of the Union Flag on Gadigal country on January 26 in 1788;

(j) Council cease holding Citizenship Ceremonies on January 26;

(k) Council continue to recognise excellence and service in Yarra’s community through Community Awards, but awarded on days other than January 26 and on days that better suit the nature of each award, and not under the banner of Australia Day Awards;

(l) Council officially support the #changethedate campaign in Council publications and social media in the lead up to January 26 in 2018 and beyond in seeking a more inclusive day to celebrate national pride; and

(m) Council consider ways it can lobby the Federal Government to change the date in line with the resolution passed by National General Assembly of Local Government in June 2017.

For media enquiries:
Jess Matrakis- Communications - Advocacy, Engagement and Media, Acting Unit Manager

0439 842 806

 

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