Whittlesea council will hold a ‘mourning service’ on Australia Day as part of a plan to make the day more culturally appropriate.

Councillors voted at last week’s council meeting to continue holding Australia Day celebrations on January 26, while noting that the day is distressing for Indigenous residents.

The council also voted to create a community awareness program to educate the community about the cultural sensitivities of the day, as well as ensuring traditional owners play a role in Australia Day and including a minute’s silence at the start of all events.

The decision was in response to a joint letter from the Whittlesea Reconciliation Group in February calling for the date of Australia Day to be changed.

The group also wanted the council to hold citizenship ceremonies on a different date, acknowledge January 26 as survival day and include a welcome to country at future citizenship ceremonies.

Cr Sam Alessi said it was important to continue taking steps towards greater reconciliation with the Indigenous

“This council has been at the forefront of taking positive steps in reconciliation for many, many years. This council needs to continue that type of work,” he said.

“It is an emotive issue and not everyone will like or agree to everything this council does in relation to this issue. I believe that in time, this will be solved.”

Cr Alahna Desiato said she believed the council’s decision was a “respectful” way to appease all cohorts of the community