Mt Alexander Shire mayor says informal Australia Day discussions have been held with Indigenous community

The Mount Alexander Shire has confirmed it has held “informal discussions and consultations” with the Indigenous community around Australia Day as another Melbourne council makes major ceremony changes.

Last night the City of Darebin decided to stop holding citizenship ceremonies on January 26, becoming the second Melbourne council to do so within the space of a week.

It will also move community awards from January 26 as well as begin hosting an event to celebrate the world’s oldest living culture.

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Mayor Kim Le Cerf said the council regarded January 26 as a non-inclusive date for national celebrations.

“We will support the broader movement to ‘change the date’ and have resolved to ensure that the way we mark January 26 in Darebin is inclusive and respectful of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.” 

Last week the City of Yarra voted through a raft of similar changes and the federal government promptly revoked the council’s right to hold citizenship ceremonies. 

Last Tuesday Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Control wrote to all local councils saying councils that did not comply with the Australia Citizenship Ceremonies Code would be dealt with.

“A citizenship ceremony must not be used as a forum to protest the practice of celebrating Australia Day on 26 January. This includes arranging a citizenship ceremony to align with an ‘anti or alternate Australia Day celebration’,” he said.

A central Victorian unfurls a flag prior to it being run up the flag pole for Australia Day celebrations. Picture: Brendan McCarthy

A central Victorian unfurls a flag prior to it being run up the flag pole for Australia Day celebrations. Picture: Brendan McCarthy

A City of Greater Bendigo spokeswoman last week said the council had no position on any changes to Australia Day, including citizenship ceremonies, awards or support for the #changethedate campaign.

Mount Alexander Mayor Sharon Telford said informal discussions had taken place in her shire but there were currently no plans to change celebrations or its special citizenship ceremonies.

“Our focus is on holding a respectful celebration of diversity and the individuals who volunteer their time to make a valuable contribution in our community,” she said.

“We value the important role that the traditional owners and members of our indigenous community play in these celebrations to recognise survival and help build cultural understanding.”

At this year’s Australia Day functions Jaara Jaara elder Uncle Rick Nelson performed a welcome to country to start the day and was involved in the citizenship ceremony, Cr Telford said.

The crowd also heard from 2016 Citizen of the Year Aunty Julie McHale who spoke about her journey in working towards reconciliation and educating kids and the community on indigenous culture.

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