A Melbourne council will lose its authority to hold citizenship ceremonies if it bumps them from Australia Day, the federal government has warned.
The City of Darebin is considering moving its citizenship ceremony from Australia Day and might also hold an event on January 26 to acknowledge Aboriginal suffering.
But Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Alex Hawke says the council can’t choose to change the day of citizenship ceremonies.
“You must not use your ability to preside over citizenship ceremonies or the dates they are held to delegitimatise Australia Day,” Mr Hawke wrote in a letter to the council, later confirmed to AAP.
“If you were to continue to use a citizenship ceremony, or your ability to preside over one, as a promotional tool for an anti-national day event, I will consider this a serious breach … and will revoke authorisation from those persons in the City of Darebin who can currently receive the Pledge at citizenship ceremonies.”
A Darebin council spokesman told AAP they were trying to strengthen Australia Day, not discredit it.
In a statement on Wednesday, Mayor Kim Le Cerf said January 26 was “a date that has a big history, a complicated history, a history that we all grapple with”.
“There is a national debate taking place about how we can make Australia Day an inclusive one,” she said.
“Maybe it will mean shifting the date by which we celebrate the nation to a date that can be owned by First Nations people just as much as the rest of us.”
The Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code says events “must not be used as forums for political, partisan or religious expression”.
Perth’s City of Fremantle in 2017 planned to move its citizenship ceremony from Australia Day but was forced to reverse the decision by the federal government.