Oz Day breakthrough

A RULE requiring councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day has been quashed.

On December 13 Vincent council unanimously voted to write to the new federal Labor government asking for the former Liberal government’s rule requiring all councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26 be quashed.

Vincent mayor Emma Cole noted increasing discomfort among local Indigenous representatives about January 26; the Noongar Choir no longer attends, and this year they haven’t found  a traditional owner to deliver a Welcome to Country.

Vincent’s unsent letter would have joined Victorian councils Darebin and Yarra who had been lobbying Labor since May to undo the rule, which was brought in after Fremantle council moved its ceremonies off January 26 in 2017.

Ms Cole said at the council meeting they didn’t expect a swift answer, as the federal government would be prioritising an Indigenous Voice to Parliament group before addressing Australia Day.

But by December 16 Labor’s citizenship minister Andrew Giles proclaimed the old rule would be stricken. 

Mr Giles issued a statement announcing “a pragmatic change in line with the government’s commitment to efficient processing of citizenship applications and timely ceremonies for new citizens”.

The statement didn’t mention the controversy around January 26, instead saying “a number of councils have indicated they will move to no longer hold a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day due to higher operational costs involved in hosting ceremonies on a public holiday”.

The ceremonies must run on any day between January 23 to January 29.  Council can hold others during the year as long as they comply with that rule.

Ms Cole says it’s “a welcome change, and we appreciate that they’ve given local governments the ability to make that choice, have that flexibility, and reflect the wishes of our elders’ group and our Reconciliation Action Plan group,” who’d both supported the motion.

Vincent’s now looking at instead holding its citizenship ceremony on the evening of Friday January 27 in 2023, and hoping it’ll be easier to find a traditional owner to hold the Welcome to Country on that date.

by DAVID BELL

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