News National A third Melbourne council has voted to dump Australia Day celebrations
Updated:

A third Melbourne council has voted to dump Australia Day celebrations

Moreland Council will become the third Melbourne Council to ditch Australia Day celebrations.
Moreland Council will become the third Melbourne Council to ditch Australia Day celebrations. Photo: Getty
Share
Tweet Share Reddit Pin Email

A third Melbourne council will dump official Australia Day celebrations, with one councillor calling the day “grossly insensitive”.

But Moreland City Council will continue to hold citizenship ceremonies on the date to avoid losing its right to host them altogether.

The inner-north Melbourne council voted in favour of dropping all references to Australia Day and to join the push to change the date on Wednesday night.

Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton said hosting ceremonies and events on January 26 was “grossly insensitive” to Indigenous people.

“It would be like celebrating the Nazi holocaust,” Ms Bolton said in the meeting on Wednesday.

Another councillor, John Kavanagh, did not support the move and said it was a decision for the federal government to make.

Moreland Council’s move away from Australia Day follows Yarra and Darebin councils, which canned celebrations.

Assistant immigration minister Alex Hawke on Thursday criticised Moreland’s “divisive” decision.

“The Turnbull Government strongly condemns comparisons of Australia Day with the Nazi Holocaust as deeply offensive to all Australians,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“Already we have stripped councils of the right to administer citizenship where they have violated the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code.

“The government will consider (the) Moreland motion, and the nature of the public debate and consider further action as appropriate.”

The Turnbull government last month stripped Yarra and Darebin councils of their right to host citizenship ceremonies after councillors voted to shift them away from January 26.

The Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code says events “must not be used as forums for political, partisan or religious expression”.

Moreland’s decision to dump the date wasn’t unanimous, with councillors John Kavanagh and Oscar Yildiz speaking out against the move.

“For us to reject this day, really means rejecting our own ancestry and customs,” Mr Yildiz told 3AW on Thursday.

“I think this is a whole bunch of councillors making a political statement.”
In 2015, Moreland moved its annual citizen awards ceremony to October.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last month described Yarra City Council’s decision to change the way it commemorates the day as “utterly out of step” with Australian values.

“On Australia Day, we recognise the greatness of our achievement as Australians,” Mr Turnbull said in parliament.

“To change the date would be to turn our back on Australian values.”

Australia Day Parade Melbourne
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said changing the date “would be to turn our back on Australian values”. Photo: AAP

Darebin Council moved its citizenship ceremonies from January 26, after Yarra replaced the ceremonies with an event “marking the loss of Indigenous culture”.

Moreland in 2015 moved its annual citizen awards ceremony to October.

Fremantle Council also caused controversy earlier in the year by deciding to hold its Australia Day celebrations on January 28.

The Australia Citizenship Ceremonies Code says local councils should hold ceremonies every two to three months and notes that Australia Day – along with Australian Citizenship Day on September 17 – are “significant days” in the calendar when “local governments and community organisations can play an important role” in raising awareness of citizenship.