The City of Whittlesea will no longer hold an Australia Day event as part of a broader review of all festivals and events to ensure they are inclusive, safe and best value.
At its 7 December meeting, Council resolved to continue with a Citizenship Ceremony on 26 January.
The Australia Day Awards will be piloted as Whittlesea Community Awards in 2021 and announced at an event held later in the year.
Chair Administrator Lydia Wilson said the decision to take a different approach to 26 January was multi-faceted.
It includes complexities around the 26 January date particularly for our Aboriginal community, summer risks with fireworks, rising event costs and evolving restrictions around gatherings due to COVID-19.
“Most festivals and events were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions around gatherings, which has provided an opportune time to conduct a thorough review,” she said.
“We want to ensure they are aligned with our community’s expectations around cultural appropriateness, value for money, seasonal risks and community health.
“Council acknowledged that 26 January is a complex and contested date to celebrate Australia Day. We recognise this causes distress for many people living in our community, and we are committed to moving forward in a way that will build relationships and understanding.”
The City of Whittlesea has the second largest Aboriginal population in metropolitan Melbourne and Council has taken significant steps over the years towards reconciliation.
“We’re at a point now where we need to review our events on 26 January out of respect to our whole community, to ensure we can live our vision to make the City of Whittlesea a place for all.”
Council will host a Summer Series of events between 15 and 30 January across the municipality that will include movie nights and other activities.
Community consultation on future festival and events will commence in the first half of 2021 with outcomes presented to Council for consideration by July.
“This will give us time to hear from our diverse community as we shape our festivals and events to be inclusive,” Ms Wilson said.
“Council will also continue its program of education and engagement to foster understanding, awareness and respectful dialogue around Reconciliation issues in our community.”
Details on how to participate in the review will be communicated in the new year.
To find out more about the Summer Series of events in January visit arts.whittlesea.vic.gov.au
Q: What changes has Council made to Australia Day – 26 January – activities?
A: At its 7 December meeting, Council resolved to:
Q: Why is the City of Whittlesea changing Australia Day activities?
A: The reasons are multi-faceted. Most significantly, the date of 26 January causes considerable pain and suffering to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the Traditional Owners of the City of Whittlesea, the Wurundjeri Land Council. Council’s Whittlesea Reconciliation Group has strongly advocated to Council for many years now regarding these concerns.
There are also an increasing number of operational reasons including the risks around holding a fireworks display in the middle of summer, and rising event costs.
Q: How will Australia Day be celebrated in the future?
A: Council is committed to ensuring that all its events live our community vision to make the City of Whittlesea a place for all.
We do not anticipate celebrating Australia Day as a major event and fireworks display on the 26 January at any time in the future.
Council will explore a program of inclusive and respectful festivals and events moving forward.
In the first half of 2021, community consultation will take place on our complete festival and events program, to ensure that all our events align with our community’s expectations around cultural appropriateness, value for money, community health and safety and seasonal risk. The outcomes of this consultation will be presented to Council by July 2021.
Q: Will the City of Whittlesea host an Australia Day event on another day?
A: No. We are not proposing to celebrate Australia Day on a different date. We anticipate, subject to our community consultation in the first half of 2021, that in the future we will host a culturally appropriate and inclusive event that brings our City together and celebrates what’s great about being Australian. In 2021, a Summer Series of events will be held between 15 and 30 January across the municipality.
Q: What is the history of Australia Day, 26 January?
A: Australia Day, 26 January marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships in Port Jackson, New South Wales. Australia Day only became a national public holiday celebrated by all states and territories in 1994.
Q: Why does Australia Day celebrations cause distress to some people?
A: For Aboriginal Australians, 26 January is a day of mourning; a painful reminder of the beginning of the oppression of Aboriginal people and the invasion of Aboriginal lands. Celebrations on this date can add to the trauma and be viewed as inappropriate, insensitive and contradictory to Council’s commitment to reconciliation and vision for our city, A place for all.
Q: Is Council against celebrating Australia?
A: Not at all, we are simply changing and reviewing our approach to the 26 January public holiday. We have a lot to celebrate in this country and we believe our national day should be a day that can be enjoyed by everyone, including our Aboriginal community. We believe we can have a more respectful celebration of our wonderful country that is truly inclusive.
Q: Who did Council consult with before making this decision?
A: Council’s decision was informed by consultation over many years with both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community groups and members.
Q: Will Council still host citizenship ceremonies on 26 January?
A: Yes, citizenship ceremonies will continue to be held on 26 January.
Q: What happens to the Australia Day Awards?
A: To recognise the outstanding achievements of our residents, in 2021 Council will pilot a Community Awards program later in the year in lieu of the Australia Day Awards.
Q: What else is Council doing about reconciliation?
A: The City of Whittlesea has the second largest Aboriginal population in metropolitan Melbourne and Council has taken significant steps over the years towards reconciliation. Council will continue its ongoing program of Reconciliation education and engagement to foster understanding, awareness and respectful dialogue around these issues in the Whittlesea community as set out in our Reconciliation Action Plan.
Q: Can I still celebrate Australia Day privately?
A: Yes. Australia Day is still a national public holiday and residents can enjoy the day as they would like.