Thursday, May 30, 2024

Melbourne to rethink “divisive” Australia Day celebrations

City of Melbourne Council is making national headlines after last night voting in favour of a motion brought by Lord Mayor, Sally Capp, to review how Australia Day is celebrated in the city.

Council says traditional owners will be consulted as part of its review of the January 26 day.

Lord Mayor Capp publicly labelled the date “divisive” in media interviews this morning.

She said a review would seek to identify alternative options for the city’s Australia Day commemorations.

“What are the ways we can celebrate being Australian and can we find ways to create more unity than division on 26 January,” she told Sunrise in a live interview this morning.

“That is the process we are undertaking with options to come back on September 6.”

At last night’s meeting, the Lord Mayor said the day of national celebration was a “polarising issue”.

Australia Day at St Kilda beach this year (file image).

“I believe it’s important for local governments, as the level of government closest to our people, to be active participants in this important debate,” she said.

“I know that celebrating Australia Day on January 26 is important to a lot of people, as much as it’s hurtful to a lot of people.

“The debate is maturing and it is time for us to be more considered about what happens on January 26.”

She said while Council was not able to change the Australia Day date, it was able to consider the views of the community, of traditional owners and the approaches of other levels of government.

“We can incorporate the views of stakeholders and we can look to use that information to consider what we will do on January 26,” she said.

All but one Councillor supported the motion, with Councillor Jason Chang, a local businessman, abstaining from the vote.

“My thoughts are it’s an issue for the federal government,” Cr Chang told the meeting.

“I understand the sentiment and respect my colleagues’ views on this, but I also feel we need to focus on what’s happening in the city of Melbourne right now. Businesses are all struggling.”

An options paper is expected to be prepared for council’s Future Melbourne Committee on 6 September 6.

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