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.’