The Greater Shepparton Council has come to an agreement, following community consultation and an internal vote, on the Council’s stance towards Australia Day.
In a release, Council stated that 26 January holds diverse and complex meanings for Australians.
It also acknowledged that although the date is Australia’s national public holiday and a day where awards and citizenships have been conferred, it is not a day of celebration for all, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
A reflection on Council’s role in 26 January activities formally commenced in 2022 with the formation of a community stakeholder group.
In October 2022, Council resolved to advocate to the Federal Government for a change of date for Australia’s national holiday, and to continue community engagement to inform a decision about Council’s role on 26 January in 2024 and beyond.
Council undertook community consultation in early 2023 via a public survey, with the results showing strong community support for changing how Council acknowledges this date, particularly among its younger residents, while support was also shown for Council to continue to mark Australia Day on 26 January.
Consultation also indicated that the community value aspects of Australia Day celebrations, including awards ceremonies, citizenship ceremonies and opportunities for the community to come together and celebrate, while the value placed on these events is not strongly linked to the date of 26 January.
On this basis, Council voted to continue its advocacy to the Federal Government to change the date of Australia Day from 26 January, cease hosting and supporting Australia Day activities on 26 January from 2024, and provide opportunities for communities to come together and acknowledge Australia Day on alternative dates in late January.
Greater Shepparton Mayor, Shane Sali, thanked the community for providing their feedback during the consultation phase.
“Community feedback is an important part of Council decisions and we thank everyone who provided their thoughts to Council earlier this year while the survey was open,” Mayor Sali said.
“This recommendation aims to achieve a fair balance following the lengthy conversations which have been had over the course of this journey.”
Speaking during the meeting, Cr Greg James said the recommendation acknowledged the individual feelings the community had around 26 January.
“A lot of pain and hurt is surfaced on 26 January as a reminder of the past and it is known to be an extremely sensitive day for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Previously, this has been a difficult day for me to celebrate because of the history of what has occurred,” Cr James said.
“This recommendation acknowledges that we want everyone to feel comfortable on this day. We have been having discussions for the past 12 months on this sensitive and complex issue and it is now time to make this decision. I am very honoured that we have come to this decision for our community.”