A GROUP of Uniting Church members have called on the City of Greater Bendigo to reconsider staging Australia Day celebrations on January 26.
The petition, signed by 20-odd members of the Central Bendigo Uniting Church Cluster, urges the council to consult the community on when and how "Australia's nationhood" would best be celebrated in the city, as it drafts up its new reconciliation plan.
The existing plan is dated from 2016-2019.
"For First Nations people and their family of supporters throughout Australia it's difficult to be festive and celebrate togetherness on the anniversary of the day upon which their lands were invaded and upon which an age of oppression commenced and, some would say, continues to be present," the petition states.
"We believe it is important the continuing journey of reconciliation between Australia's first and second peoples include seeking out and reflecting on the perspectives First Nations people have of 26 January."
The petition cites efforts by both the Darebin and Yarra local councils, in Melbourne, to "listen and understand the views of First Nations people in their communities" by changing their plans for that date.
It calls on the city to engage the community about the issue, given its existing reconciliation plan lists 'assuming a leadership role to drive reconciliation across the municipality' as a goal.
The petition will come before the council at its July meeting, next Wednesday.
City staffers have recommended the council thank the Central Bendigo Uniting Church Cluster, which represents the congregations of Forest Street and St Andrew's Bendigo - Axedale, and commit to "an ongoing conversation with the community, which promotes and progresses greater understanding, respect and reconciliation".
They have also recognised the complexity of Australia Day and its history, saying the day holds different meanings for different members of the community.
"Given these diverse views, both Reconciliation Australia and Reconciliation Victoria are calling for ongoing and respectful conversation around January 26," a report in the meeting agenda states.
It acknowledges that a growing number of councils are changing the way they mark Australia Day. However, decisions about the date itself are the federal government's responsibility.
DOCUMENT: City of Greater Bendigo meeting agenda, July 2019
The Victorian councils of Yarra, Darebin and Moreland are among five local governments in Australia that have changed their plans for January 26, according to the city's report.
More have considered the matter, with Hepburn Shire Council and the City of Ballarat among those Bendigo city staffers highlighted.
The report also points out the 'Survival Day' component to Australia Day events in Mount Alexander Shire, a feature since 2016.
The City of Greater Bendigo supports a citizenship ceremony, Australia Day Awards, an official ceremony and community event at Lake Weeroona on January 26. Councillors also attend community events.
January 26, 1788, was when Captain Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack at Sydney Cove.
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