Bendigo council has not considered altering key Australia Day ceremonies

The City of Greater Bendigo has not discussed changing the date of Australia Day citizenship ceremonies, even as a Melbourne council prepares to vote on a proposal of its own.

Melbourne’s Yarra City Council will decide tonight whether to change the date of citizenship ceremonies on January 26.

In a raft of changes the council was also considering holding a small, culturally-sensitive event acknowledging the loss of culture, language and identity felt by Aboriginal community on January 26, and a campaign to help people better understand the Aboriginal community’s experiences of the date. 

The council’s Australia Day awards would also be up for debate, with the council potentially renaming and moving them to a different date.

It came after in-depth conversations with the region’s Aboriginal people and a survey of non-indigenous people.

“The overwhelming sentiment was that January 26 is a date of mourning, sadness, anger and distress for many Aboriginal people because it represents the beginning of the loss of culture, language and land, and the beginning of generations of trauma and suffering,” the council said in a statement.

Tonight’s vote would come a month after the Australian Local Government Association narrowly passed a resolution to consider ways to lobby the federal government to shift Australia Day’s date.

Assistant minister for immigration and border protection Alex Hawke today wrote to all local councils reminding them of their duties after what he described as a series of “politically motivated public attacks” on Australia Day.

He argued a small number of councils were using their ability to hold citizenship ceremonies to lobby against the current date in breach of the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code.

“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’,” Mr Hawke said.

“Local councils are now on notice that if they politicise Australian citizenship, the government will see it as a breach of the code and take the appropriate action.”

The City of Greater Bendigo does not have a position on changes to Australia Day’s date, with a spokeswoman confirming it had never been discussed.

Neither had the council discussed changing the dates of any of its traditional Australia Day award and citizenship ceremonies.