The Assembly of Local Government that voted has voted to support a resolution in favour of encouraging the Federal Government to change the date of Australia Day, out of respect to the indigenous members of each of their Australian communities.
Local indigenous leader and former Tumut Mayor Sue Bulger said she supports changing the date, to one that falls on a day of celebration for all Australians.
“I think it would be a better celebration for Aboriginal people if it was changed,” she said.
“A lot of Aboriginal people don’t celebrate Australia Day, they either call it ‘Invasion Day’ or ‘Survival Day,’ so there’s not going to be happy ground unless it’s changed. I understand why that resolution has been put out, because there are a lot of people who are unhappy with that date.
“We really need to have a look at the history of what that date stands for. If it’s going to be an authentic day for Australia, well, was our country called Australia then? I’m not sure what would be a better date, I’d have to do some research, but the date of Federation makes sense to me.”
Last year Fremantle Council in Western Australia planned to hold their Australia Day celebrations on a different date, in order to be inclusive of indigenous people for whom January 26 is a day of mourning for the thousands of their people who lost their lives during colonisation. However, the Federal Government refused to allow them to hold their Citizenship Ceremonies on a different day.
The Assembly is hoping their combined power will encourage the government to take their concerns more seriously.
“Local government is the closest level of government to the people, so I think it is an excellent avenue to speed up to the Federal Government the concerns of the public,” said Alderman Sue Hickey.
“I would just like to us to consider a date that is far more considerate for all Australians, so we can stop the protests and move forward.”
However, Temora Shire Mayor Rick Firman, most recently in the news for campaigning against condoms, has spoken out against the ALGA resolution.
“ALGA seems to be delving more and more into the ‘fringe’ issues such as the same gender marriage debate, climate change and others – all issues that have varying levels of importance to each individual we represent, however, in the scheme of things, there are a multitude of other far more significant issues confronting local government than what seems to have been addressed at the assembly,” he said.
“I realise there are those that believe we should not be celebrating Australia Day on the 26th January, and that is an individual’s right. In my view, some metropolitan based local government areas across the country are frankly overstepping the mark, delving into these sorts of areas that are outside our remit.”
Ms Bulger, on the other hand, said that in her experience as a councillor and mayor, responding to the concerns of all of community members, including Indigenous community members, is not only a role of local government, but one of their central tenets.
“If we all say ‘it’s not our business, it’s not our business’ then it will be nobody’s business – it is our business, we are all a part of the community and we have voted for our government to represent us,” she said.
“Governments set dates, legislation, make decisions about acts, and all of that, and at some level of government, especially this tier of government that is closest to the community, I think there needs to be some sort of input from communities.”