Whittlesea council has rejected calls for it to cancel Australia Day celebrations and citizenship ceremonies on January 26, saying it doesn’t believe it is what the majority of residents want.
The Whittlesea Reconciliation Group (WRG) tabled a joint letter at a recent council meeting, calling for an end to Australia Day celebrations and urging the council to instead recognise January 26 as ‘Survival Day’.
The letter was noted by the council before it went on to call on the state and federal governments to reaffirm January 26 as Australia Day.
Cr Norm Kelly, who is one of the council’s representatives on the WRG, said he believed changing the date of Australia Day would divide the community.
He described the decision of other councils to change the date as “rash”, adding that councils needed to be aware of the consequences of such a decision.
“At this stage, I don’t think it is the right thing to do as citizenship ceremonies will be lost. On the other side of the ledger, I totally agree what happened in the past was a disgrace,” Cr Kelly said.
“Australia Day is about celebrating what is good about Australia and how far we have come.
“I want there to be more education and for the community to know we have done everything properly and not just on a whim.”
Mayor Ricky Kirkham said he did not believe there was broad community support for changing the date, but said the topic could be revisited in the future.
However, he said the council would support the WRG in getting the topic on the national agenda.
“Without the federal government showing interest in this matter, I don’t think local government can get involved,” Cr Kirkham said.
WRG co-chair Andrew Morrison said the group was “bitterly disappointed” by the council’s decision.
“Learning and acknowledging the history of our country seems to be a bitter pill for some councillors,” he said.