Councillor Maria Sampey voted for the motion to keep ‘Australia Day’ celebrations on January 26, saying she understands the debate keeping the date is: “the view of the majority of people".
By
Madeline Hayman-Reber

1 Nov 2017 - 4:18 PM  UPDATED 1 Nov 2017 - 4:38 PM

The City of Greater Dandenong Council is the latest local government area to enter the debate over January 26.

A notice of motion was put forward by Councillor Tim Dark to keep ‘Australia Day’ celebrations on January 26, which succeeded five votes to two last week.

“Why am I being picked on? That’s the view of the majority of people, not just me.” Cr Sampey.

“The role of Australia Day is not to divide people, it’s to unite people. To keep all Australians, regardless of what nationality you are, of where you came from, of what circumstances you like to celebrate, we are all Australian," He said during the meeting.

“This is something I believe that Great Dandenong should definitely be looking at taking a stance on.”

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His fellow Councillor Maria Sampey agreed, expressing that it should be a Federal Government decision, not a Council decision.

“I think it’s sad in a way that people dwell on the invasion because there are stacks of countries around the world that have been invaded at some time or other,” Cr Sampey said.

“I can understand both sides of the story, but you know, it happened years ago and we just need to move on.”

When approached for an interview by NITV, the Italian born Councillor refused, saying she felt her comments were originally taken out of context in an earlier report.

“Can I just say, it’s a bit sad when your words get taken out of context,” she told NITV.

“Why am I being picked on? That’s the view of the majority of people, not just me.”

NITV accessed a full video recording of the Council debate to verify her reported statements.

During the meeting, Greens representative Councillor Matthew Kirwin opposed the motion, saying that upon receiving community feedback, he wanted further consultation.

“As well as residents supporting the current date, I also was contacted by a number of members of the Greater Dandenong community who supported changing the date of Australia,” Cr Kirwin said.

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“Believing, like me, that the 26 of January is not a date that unifies our nation, or the Greater Dandenong community.

“As I said then, I think we as a council should be formally consulting with our local community, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous before adopting any position on Australia Day.

“We have an Indigenous community that is 500 strong.”

Comment is being sought from Traditional Owners.