Australia Day date 'just wrong' says councillor

Memmbers of the public hold flags at an Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony and Flag Raising event in Canberra on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Memmbers of the public hold flags at an Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony and Flag Raising event in Canberra on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING MICK TSIKAS

LISMORE Greens councillor Vanessa Ekins has said celebrating Australia Day on January 26 is "just wrong".

The comments come after Lismore City councillors voted last week to start the process of abolishing citizenship ceremonies on January 26, identify new dates for the ceremonies, and work towards "culturally inclusive" celebrations.

Mayoral Candidate for Lismore City Council elections Vanessa Ekins.
Mayoral Candidate for Lismore City Council elections Vanessa Ekins.

The action may also include refusing to take an Australia Day ambassador on the day.

The council is following inner Melbourne council City of Yarra, which has made national headlines this morning for voting unanimously to end all its celebrations and citizenship ceremonies on January 26.

Lismore hasn't quite gone that far yet but Cr Ekins said that was the goal.

Cr Ekins said the date was synonymous with "mourning, dispossession and grieving" for the Aboriginal community.

"It's a crying shame that we're holding a national ceremony on a date that represents hundreds of years of disposession and murder and slaughter of the people that were in this country before the British arrived on these boats," she said.

"It's a simple thing for us to fix."

"To hold a ceremony on that date is just wrong."

Cr Ekins also labelled Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as "out of touch" for his reported criticisms against the move as a "repudiation" of Australia Day values. (The PM was speaking in relation to City of Yarra's decision).

"This is an attack on Australia Day and a repudiation of the values the day celebrates: freedom, a fair go, mateship and diversity," Mr Turnbull told The Australian.

A comment has been sought from Federal Member for Page, Kevin Hogan.

But Cr Ekins said there was a "groundswell" of support for change.

"In order for us to have a national inclusive celebration it needs to be on a date other than the 26th of January, that is obvious," she said.

She said recently at the Australian Local Government conference, 300 councils voted to ask the Federal Government to change the date. Triple J is also looking at changing the date of its iconic Hottest 100 countdown.

The council is waiting for endorsement from the council's Aboriginal Advisory Group after which it will write to the Prime Minister, local MPs, relevant ministers "urging them to change the date of Australia Day".

The vote over the proposal was carried six to four, with Gianpiero Battista, Greg Bennett, Nancy Casson and Bill Moorhouse against.

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Cr Bennett said he refused to vote for the motion because January 26 was "the day that Australia was actually formed".

"The modern Australia that we live in started on that date," Cr Bennett said.

"If we were going to go back to an Aboriginal Australia we wouldn't have what we have now. We wouldn't be standing in the council chamber debating this. We wouldn't have a council chamber.

"We're celebrating modern Australia and that event started with the First Fleet. It's history, it's undeniable, it's what occurred.

"Yes there's things that happened... but now it's a very inclusive country...and we're celebrating our successes and there is plenty of them."

"It definitely should not be moved.

"This happened centuries ago, so far beyond living memory, generation upon generation ago."

The Aboriginal Advisory Group is expected to meet tomorrow to discuss the issue, with Labor councillor Eddie Lloyd, the council's representative on the group.

Practically speaking, Cr Ekins said there were already multiple citizenship ceremonies held throughout the year and the non-Australia Day ones were usually better attended.

Tell us what you think by answering our poll below.

Topics:  australia day editors picks general-seniors-news

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