In a scathing statement released overnight, Darebin City Council in Naarm (Melbourne) has said it is extremely disappointed by what it described as "a lack of leadership shown by Australia’s Prime Minister following last weekend’s Australia Day announcement".
The statement comes after the PM announced on Sunday that if he is re-elected he intends to compel local councils to hold their citizenship ceremonies on January 26. The Pm also made remarks alluding to potentially imposing a set dress-code for such ceremonies.
In response, the Darebin City Council reaffirmed its position that the date of Australia Day needed to be changed to pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
"The First Nations Peoples of Australia deserve a conversation about how we respectfully celebrate our national identity, rather than a confected debate about dress codes and threats to strip local governments of their rights to hold citizenship ceremonies," a statement from the council read.
Darebin is one of three Naarm councils who have formally denounced celebrating January 26 as "Australia Day".
The PM's proposed changes will not affect those councils like Darebin who have already taken a stand against celebrating the national day on January 26, because they have already been stripped of their ability to conduct citizenship ceremonies.
Darebin City Council Mayor Susan Rennie said the day Australia is celebrated should not be a date that is as divisive as January 26.
“Darebin Council has been criticised for taking these stands, told to stick to “roads, rates and rubbish” and that matters such as Australia Day are none of our business," she said.
"But if there are people within our community who are discriminated against, or marginalised, then it is absolutely our responsibility to give them a voice, and we will continue to do so.
“We are not anti-Australia Day, nor opposed to the celebration of a national identity - we are simply opposed to celebrating our national identity on a date that is not inclusive and respectful of First Nations peoples.”
Earlier in the week, the Yarra City Council issued a media release stating it will mark January 26, 2019 with respect and sensitivity.
“We have a lot to celebrate in Yarra: a rich and varied culture, a welcoming home and vibrant community, plus our unique natural environment,” said Yarra Mayor, Cr Danae Bosler.
“Our national day should be a time for celebration. It should be a day that our whole community can look forward to, including our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities."
The Council said it had decided to stop its 'Australia Day' celebrations after it took the time to listen to the Wurundjeri Elders, Traditional Owners, and other community members.
“[Wurundjeri] have told us over many years January 26 is a day of pain and sadness for them. It represents the beginning of the significant loss of life, culture, language and land of their ancestors. We need to respect and acknowledge their experiences of this date," Mayor Bosler said.
“We have a proud local Aboriginal history, with Fitzroy and Collingwood being the birthplace of the Victorian Aboriginal civil rights movement. A progressive, Indigenous urban community grew right here in Yarra, and Aboriginal culture is still thriving here today."
The original decision made by the council in 2017 was unanimous, and January 26 is now recognised as a day of mourning for the community.
“We have a strong and longstanding relationship with our local Aboriginal community, and we’re very proud to stand together with them on this important issue," Mayor Bosler said.