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March 5, 2024

Byron mayor wants to move Australia Day ceremony

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Byron mayor Simon Richardson wants to move the date of the Shire’s Australia Day ceremony. Photo supplied.

Paul Bibby

Byron Council may be about to move its Australia Day ceremony back a day in order to acknowledge that January 26 marks ‘the day the cultural decimation and denigration of the first Australians began’.

In a development that may bring howls of protest from traditionalists, mayor Simon Richardson (Greens) will put a motion to Thursday’s Council meeting proposing that the 2019 Australia Day event be moved to the evening of January 25.

The proposal also includes an attempt to change the day of Byron’s Australia Day citizenship ceremony.

Cr Richardson told The Echo, ‘The majority of our community feel desperately uneasy about celebrating Australia Day on a day that is associated with a lot of hurt and anger for Indigenous people.’

‘Why would we, being a nation that prides itself on the values of a “fair go”, equality and “mateship”, willingly choose a date that is not fair, hurts our fellow Australian mates and suggests that some Australians are more equal than others?

‘I believe Byron has an opportunity to help the nation make the transition away from the historical problem of this date while still honouring the needs and values of those who enthusiastically wish to celebrate our successes as a nation…’

Should it adopt Cr Richardson’s motion, Byron Shire Council would follow in the footsteps of other councils, such as Melbourne’s Darebin and Yarra councils, both of which voted to stop holding citizenship ceremonies on January 26.

In response, the federal government stripped those councils of their right to hold citizenship ceremonies, a punishment Byron Shire council could also receive if Scott Morrison’s government were so minded.

Cr Richardson said he expected some opposition to his plan but that the change he was proposing was ‘respectful and reasonable’.

‘We can’t shy away from having this conversation and now is the time to have it,’ Cr Richardson said.

‘What tends to happen is that no-one talks about it for 11 months, and then it starts when the day is just around the corner and it becomes a heated, emotive, trench-warfare-based discussion that doesn’t serve anyone’s interests.’

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  1. You know if you want to read about what “Australia Day” is really celebrating please read a very god new work called “The Sydney Wars” by Stephen Gapps…
    I am an economic migrant from London, UK, and it is increasingly obvious to me that this is a glaring and profound shadow present in this culture: namely that colonisation, the process which continues to this day, sweeps aside and devastates the Culture, the oldest human Culture on Earth by the way everyone, and needs to be acknowledged if we want to see a unified response to the multiple crises that are upon us as a species.
    One Mob, or we are extinct, in my humblish opinion!

    • Bruce Your analysis typifies the misunderstandings of the settlement of Australia. Twenty six January celebrates the birth of modern Australia the date when my family and the first of other migrants came to this country bringing profound changes to it. Some people of aboriginal decent – by no means all – do not care to celebrate Australia Day but in doing so they and those who support them deny the British ancestry that most aboriginals have, and deny the culture and society that aboriginals after 1788 became part of.

      While aboriginals were killed as part of the spread of settlement and the enclosure of lands led to dispossession and poverty for some, the rate of killing of aboriginal people declined after 1788 with the spread of Pax Britannia . Aboriginal people very quickly learnt the language and, the skills to work and garner the benifts of what became in the 19c a society with one of the highest standards of living anywhere. In the period Gapps refers to my own family who were among the first farmers near Sydney had initially to go about armed, but they quickly reached a modus vivende with the people around Ryde such that my GGG Grandfather in the late 1790s and early 1800s grew up speaking playing with local children and speaking the local dialect. There is no reason his aboriginal playmates would not have learnt English and the necessary life skills my GGG Grandfather learnt. In this region a large number of the ceder-getters were Bundjalung people, and almost all married with the settler population , becoming farmers or workers in the flourishing agriculture and other industries.

      Aboriginal women in particular benefited from British rule of law and protection of their right to gain reliable access to food by working for and marrying into the settler community, and protection oft heir children from the abolition of infanticide. Men whose lack of physical ability who would not in traditional aboriginal society have qualified to become part of the warrior elite, benefited from new economic opportunities. All benefited from greater food security, and greater personal security from the quashing of traditional conflict and much more limited application of capital punishment by the colonial governments.

      That aboriginal people became part of modern Australia does not ignore the growing prejudice against aboriginals and concomitant poverty that occurred through the late 19th and 20c , but we need to appreciate that that prejudice explains why many more successful people of aboriginal decent chose to deny their aboriginality. A much larger number of people in our region who identified in our area as indigenous in the 2016 census but that does not require those people to deny their settler ancestor nor their identity as part of modern Australia. Twenty six January does not just belong to those who are descended only form settler Australians, it belongs to us all.

      • That some of the original inhabitants adapted to the European presence is not surprising – it’s called survival. To paint a rosy picture of this as a a benevolent gift is patronising in the extreme and ignores the realities of introduced diseases, dispossession, and virtual enslavemenIt in heir own land. It also ignores the reality of the present day disparities that exist in health, living standards and life expectancy.

        As a descendent of Europeans there are some aspects of the culture for which I feel pride. The practice of getting rid of their social problems – caused by an entrenched class structure – by sending them in poorly eqipped fleets to the other side of the globe is not one of them. I see nothing to celebrate. It was the start of a convict settlement not the birth of the multi layered, multi cultural nation Australia is today.

        • No where did I suggest the response of aboriginal people was to benevolence. Convicts and aboriginals were displaced from their former lives but found themselves by the19c in a fast growing grazing. agriculture and mining economy with a strong demand for labour and relatively high wages. Both convicts and aboriginals – responded to their situation by taking advantage of their changed circumstances. Of course that is about survival, but aboriginal people also wanted to be able to enjoy the higher standard of living – easier and more secure access to food and drinking water, much better housing, that the new economy offered. The story of those more successful at accessing the benefits of the new economy is largely untold however, as most intermarried with the settler community put their aboriginal background behind them. Just as my family suppressed their convict background, many their decedents of aboriginal people are not aware of their background, because their forefathers who intermarried “passed” to use the anthropological term.

          On your comments concerning the date they demonstrate why I object so strongly to Richardson’s actions is that until he mid 20c. Like the reformers in the 19c you disparage the convict the system as a stain on our history, but it fortuitously brought criminals to what became one of the most prosperous countries in the world and by the 19c one of the safest and most law abiding. My ten convict ancestors all lived better lives in Australia than they could have in Britain or Ireland. After doing their time, the men worked or farmed and live in modest prosperity. None of the woman were as Ann Summers so offensively suggested whores – they all married de-jure if they were able and de-facto if not, and brought up children who similarly worked, married and prospered. All but one of our convicts died of old age. Families like mine no longer feel the need to to hide their past but now we confront people like Richardson denying our ancestors their role as the founders of modern Australia and others disparaging a system that successfully enabled convicted criminals to turn their lives around.

          Not everyone’s story was positive, including for people who were of of predominately aboriginal descent who maintained their identity and who faced increased prejudice and marginalization, but it is important to remember that in SE Australia they were a relatively small and declining part of the population of people of aboriginal descent. I look forward to the day when the comprehensive histories are written that will enable people to recognise the role of all Australians, convict, free settler and indigenous in building the modern Australia that was born in 1788.

  2. Yes yes yes – can’t believe that Byron hasn’t done this long ago. Don’t like the idea of a 26th eve do though. Not sufficiently removed. As for the idea that ‘Byron has an opportunity to help the nation make the transition away from the historical problem of this date’ – please just get something simple enough done without the posturing and delusions of grandeur.

  3. What a crock of shit. Firstly, how does the mayor know that “The majority of our community feel desperately uneasy about celebrating Australia Day on a day that is associated with a lot of hurt and anger for Indigenous people.”? Secondly, the 26th of January marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip. You can’t change the date, because that’s the date that event occurred – period. Those attempting to link this date to the terrible atrocities that occurred to the traditional occupiers of the land are simply barking up the wrong tree and are trying to ruin a great Australian tradition. If they’re so passionate about this issue, why not pick a separate, unique date that is set aside to solely recognise the loss of aboriginal lives due to the British invasion. Call it ‘Reflection Day’ or something similar and leave Australia Day alone.

  4. Myself & my family are very proud of the Mayor (Mr Richardson) for taking this stand against the 26 th date THAT IS to Indigenous people the day of an invasion and much worse to follow. This is NO date to celebrate , this is NOT about what white people think….it is NOT about you. Indigenous communities have been saying this for decades, this date is insulting and insensitive to them. OMG after over 200 yrs some people STILL don’t get the pain & suffering white colonisation has inflicted upon a once vibrant /self sufficient and amazingly resilient culture. They also looked after the land as they treated it ‘as their mother’. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful lesson that we could learn from them…although its probably far too late for that sadly. I watched a profoundly touching documentary the other night on NITV , about the Aboriginal hero called Jandamarra , so if anyone has any doubts whats so ever about the immense and immeasurable pain & suffering ( not to mention brutality ) imposed upon a long surviving ancient culture….go watch it. I felt ashamed to be white…the least we can damn well do is CHANGE THE DATE. Thank You Mr Mayor you’re a legend.

  5. First Nation People are the ones to make that decision.
    Then & then only can it be sung “We are one. We are
    many… politics & votes stay out of it! Now, back to the
    Pot-holes – no pun intended.

  6. The Australian Nation was born on January 1st 1901, The Navy & Army were also both born in 1901.
    There was no nation prior to 1901, just a bunch of different British colonies.

    Australia’s first Prime Minister Edmund Barton and his cabinet were first appointed on 31st of December 1900. The 31st of December would be better than January 1st.

    Alternately, January 19th (19.01) could be used to symbolise the Australian Nation’s birth in 1901.
    The Canadians celebrate their Federation as their Nations Birthday so should we.

    Historically there can be only two alternative dates either December 31st, or January 19th (19.01)

    Australia Day must be a people-neutral day and be a constitutionally based holiday.

  7. Indigenous First Nations [see all dictionaries] are seen as ‘a large body of
    people united by descent, history & culture inhabiting a particular territory.’
    That territory, much later & owned [?] by England became a country named
    Australia. The first & original land & islander peoples I’m sure can & should
    be more that part of a decision called Australia Day.

  8. the mayor of byron is so out of touch with reality as he lives in a world of his own as the majority of byron shire people would not want it changed as he decides for all of us without even asking anyone.this man needs to be removed from the council as he does not represent the majority just the greens minority.We have more important issues than wasting money on this issue when roads and infrastructure are falling apart


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