Australia Day will prove to be particularly divisive next year, with the federal government openly waging a war against the ‘rogue’ councils in Melbourne’s inner suburbs which have decided to not celebrate Australia Day on 26 January in 2018.
On Monday, the City of Darebin in Melbourne’s north followed the example of the City of Yarra by voting in favour of not holding its citizenship ceremony on 26 January opting for another day instead.
“What we’re hearing from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is that 26 January represents the beginning of invasion and dispossession and we think it’s inappropriate to be holding national celebrations on that day”, Darebin’s mayor Kim Le Cerf said in a television interview, explaining the council’s decision.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews responded to Darebin’s decision, calling it “a great shame”, thus aligning himself with the federal government, which decided to leave no option for the ‘rogue’ councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on another day.
Expressing the Turnbull Government’s “commitment to safeguard the integrity” of citizenship ceremonies in Australia, the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Alex Hawke, has stripped the City of Darebin and the City of Yarra of their power to hold citizenship ceremonies. This task will fall on the respective cities’ neighbouring councils while the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will hold ceremonies as demand requires, including on Australia Day 2018.
“The Greens political party will not be allowed to hijack Australia Day through a small group of Greens-controlled local councils. The overwhelming majority of Australians support Australia Day remaining on 26 January,” said Mr Hawke, a third-generation Greek Australian.
“We are committed to ensuring that citizenship is treated in the ‘non-commercial, apolitical, bipartisan and secular manner’ which the Code mandates”, he added. “Both Darebin and Yarra councils have had their ability to conduct citizenship ceremonies revoked. They were warned that politicising citizenship ceremonies would not be tolerated.”
Victoria’s Greens senators have offered to preside over citizenship ceremonies for councils, includin Darebin, to get around the government’s sanctions.