The Federal Government is threatening to revoke the City of Fremantle’s power to hold citizenship ceremonies over its decision to move Australia Day celebrations to another day in a bid to create a more “culturally inclusive” celebration.
Earlier this year the Fremantle Council voted against the traditional fireworks display, in favour of hosting an event that has now been confirmed for January 28, two days after the public holiday.
West Australian Liberal MP Ben Morton flagged his concerns about the council’s actions in a letter to the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Alex Hawke.
Mr Hawke has stated he will now write to the Fremantle Council, urging it to reconsider or face the prospect of having its power to preside over citizenship ceremonies removed.
“I note this has occurred twice in the last decade and the Government will be monitoring the situation closely,” Mr Hawke said in a statement.
“Fremantle Council has conducted Australian Citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day for the last five years, and the Government would strongly encourage this important tradition to continue.”
City of Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettit has previously argued the Australia Day celebrations had negative connotations for Aboriginal people, marking “the start of much of their dispossession”.
Mr Morton, who is the Liberal Member for Tangney, said it was “a disgrace” to deny new citizens a ceremony on Australia Day.
“This politically correct, backward-looking approach from the council actually divides Australians and takes us further away from reconciliation,” he said in a statement.
Respected elder Robert Eggington last week told the West Australian that senior elders had met with the council in September to discuss the issue.
“I haven’t met an Aboriginal person who didn’t support the decision and the Aboriginal elders spoke to thousands of people in their families and they didn’t agree with the fireworks on Australia Day,” Mr Eggington said.
“It’s a clarification of history, because celebrating the day the first gunshots ploughed our blood into the earth is horrific for Aboriginal people.”
Mr Eggington said Fremantle’s decision would go down in history.
“This decision is 50 years ahead of its time and other councils will follow their lead,” he said.
“And I believe Brad Pettitt will become a historic figure because of the decision.”
The City of Fremantle has been contacted for comment.
– with ABC