Australia Day stays on date

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AUSTRALIA Day will continue to be a day of celebration in Frankston after councillors voted to reaffirm 26 January as the date council hosts citizenship ceremonies and Citizen of the Year awards.

Frankston Council will restate its commitment to 26 January being “the official National Day” in a submission to the Municipal Association of Victoria.

Council has rejoined the MAV, the body representing councils across the state, after a self-imposed two-year membership absence (“Council to get back in MAV fold”, The Times 28/8/17).

Cr Kris Bolam at the latest public council meeting last Monday (4 September) suggested council reaffirm its commitment to Australia Day.

Some councils elsewhere in Victoria, including Yarra Council and Darebin Council, have decided in recent weeks to stop citizenship ceremonies on 26 January “out of respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

Some indigenous Australians want Australia Day moved from 26 January since this date marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson and is often referred to as “Invasion Day” by opponents of the January celebrations.

“You can only imagine the outrage if there was a movement within America to get rid of Independence Day and I think that outrage is just as applicable in Australia,” Cr Bolam said at the meeting.

He acknowledged other councils have the right to decide how they commemorate Australia Day.

“Their voters will decide in three years’ time whether that was the right call or not. Frankston tonight has said loud and clear ‘we’re keeping Australia Day’ – other councils can do what they want.”

Cr Glenn Aitken mounted an impassioned defence of Australia Day.

“It’s a great pity that we even have to raise the issue of retaining Australia Day as a national day. I have to say, as far as I’m concerned, the people who are pushing for Australia Day to be abandoned or altered in whatever form, they need to go and get a life.

“I don’t know what’s going on. People are getting so precious today that you’re almost afraid to move and speak in what’s supposed to be a democratic society.

“I’m proud of my country. Our family have lived here now for many generations and I love the country that I live in and I love the land that we have. I’m sick of critics and the people who keep on pushing and shoving and being loud with these sorts of issues.”

Cr Colin Hampton suggested there could be change afoot for Australia in the near future.

“Eventually when this country comes to its senses and we become a republic … then and only then should we look at a change in Australia Day once that republic has been pronounced,” he said.

“I believe at that time it would be an appropriate time to call it ‘Australians Day’ which would encompass all of us. Hopefully on that day, there would be recognition of our indigenous people too.”

The MAV will hold a state meeting on 20 October and Frankston Council will also flag disquiet over level crossings removal consultation, threats to the autonomy of council decision making and is pushing for state constitutional recognition of local government.

First published in the Frankston Times – 11 September 2017

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