Monday, June 17, 2024

Albury stands firm on Australia Day changes

Albury City Council has tonight reaffirmed its decision to hold citizenship ceremonies three days after Australia Day, and awards ceremony a week prior, as part of an organisational move away from recognition of the 26 January commemoration date.

In a statement following this evening’s meeting, the Council said changes for 2024 Australia Day events will see the Albury Awards held on a larger scale a full week before on Friday 19 January, followed by family activities on 26 January and a citizenship ceremony three days later on 29 January.

Councillor, Alice Glachan moved a motion at the meeting to maintain citizenship formalities for 26 January. It was voted down 6 to 3, with only Mayor Kylie King and Deputy Mayor, Steve Bowen in support of it.

A motion listed in the agenda by Councillor Darren Cameron supported not holding formalities on Australia Day in 2024, with consultation to be held before 2025, and noted that such policy matters be subject to a decision in the chamber and not via briefings.

The motion was passed 8 votes to 1, with Councillor Glachan the vote against.

“Importantly, we look forward to engaging with our community to seek feedback on the success of these events and their input on the program for 2025,” said Mayor King following the meeting.

At each event and in the weeks following, Council will seek feedback on the new approach from attendees, the broader community and targeted community groups through a variety of avenues, the Mayor said.

The Council has faced a public backlash over its decision to move the citizenship ceremony and awards events away from 26 January without formal community consultation.

The new schedule of events was instead flagged in a recent newsletter to ratepayers.

As part of a newsletter item referencing the Council’s reconciliation action plan, Council chief executive, Frank Zaknich outlined the need for respect for the local indigenous community, which he said should extend to official events.

“This includes our Australia Day activities, which in the past have included civic events such as the Albury Awards and Australian citizenship ceremony, although these have seen reduced participation over recent years and have been held on a very challenging day for our Aboriginal community,” the Council CEO wrote.

MP Sussan Ley.

Deputy Liberal leader and Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, last week launched a petition opposing Council’s move and calling for a reversal of the decision – with more than 2,100 signatures garnered.

“This decision to move the date by stealth was done behind closed doors — and not even in the council chamber,” she said.

“I believe the ratepayers of this city deserve to be better consulted.

“I have great pride and respect for Australia Day, and I know that our local community does as well,” she said.

“Already my office is getting a very positive response from people who were not aware of this change, and believe the rightful date remains January 26.”

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