Shire looks into date de­bate

Coun­cil host­ing fo­rum with Indige­nous com­mu­nity about na­tional day

Euroa Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY WILL MUR­RAY edi­tor@

THE Strath­bo­gie Shire Coun­cil has voted in favour of a res­o­lu­tion to ‘in­ves­ti­gate the Indige­nous com­mu­nity’s ap­petite to change the date of Aus­tralia Day’ at a re­cent coun­cil meet­ing.

Af­ter a vote of 4-3 in favour of the amend­ment brought for­ward by coun­cil­lor Kate Stothers, the shire will host a fo­rum made up of in­di­vid­u­als and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Indige­nous com­mu­nity to dis­cuss the date, which they say will be held in ‘six to eight weeks’.

Mayor Amanda McClaren said the mo­tion was in­spired by a num­ber of lo­cal gov­ern­ments mak­ing the Jan­uary 26 date one that coun­cils should re­con­sider, due to the of­fence it can causeespe­cially to the indige­nous com­mu­nity.

“This is an is­sue that’s be­come some­thing lo­cal gov­ern­ment has been tack­ling over the past few months, and it’s some­thing we felt we should ad­dress,” Cr McClaren told the Gazette.

Not all of the coun­cil­lors were of this view.

Coun­cil­lors Mick Wil­liams, John Ma­son and Mal­colm Lit­tle voted against the amend­ment, and ex­pressed their ve­he­ment op­po­si­tion to the idea that lo­cal gov­ern­ment should get in­volved in the ‘date de­bate’.

The mayor said the pro­posal was very much in its in­fancy, and given they would not meet with lo­cal indige­nous lead­ers for some time, there was lim­ited fur­ther in­for­ma­tion they could give to res­i­dents.

When asked if coun­cil would con­sider tak­ing into ac­count the views of non-indige­nous res­i­dents on the is­sue in the fu­ture, given the indige­nous pop­u­la­tion makes up around 1.2 per cent of the shire pop­u­la­tion.

“This is very much in the ini­tial stages, and it’s some­thing we might con­sider later on, but we haven’t got to that point yet,” Cr McClaren said

“We (coun­cil) have had a lot of feed­back on that. We want to make it clear that it was not the in­ten­tion of coun­cil to of­fend, in­sult or to iso­late cer­tain peo­ple or groups.”

Fol­low­ing a meet­ing with the Aus­tralia Day town com­mit­tees prior to the Septem­ber or­di­nary meet­ing, coun­cil also re­solved to dis­con­tinue the shire-wide Aus­tralia Day cer­e­mony in favour of bol­ster­ing lo­calised events.

“We changed the shire-wide ser­vice on the rec­om­men­da­tion of the lo­cal com­mit­tees,” the mayor ex­plained.

“The com­mit­tees felt that win­ners of the ma­jor awards weren’t able to cel­e­brate with their com­mu­ni­ties, and that shirewide awards (which will still be given out) should be pre­sented at the re­cip­i­ents’ lo­cal event.”

Al­low­ing peo­ple to cel­e­brate in their home towns also frees up re­sources to re­ally build lo­calised events, ac­cord­ing to coun­cil.

“All the money that would’ve been spent on the shire-wide event will be evenly dis­trib­uted to the lo­cal cel­e­bra­tions,” Cr McClaren con­tin­ued.

“It’s meant to be all about the coun­cil em­pow­er­ing the lo­cal groups.

“We want to make some­thing very clear: we love Aus­tralia Day, and this is not about want­ing to take some­thing away from peo­ple.”

Strath­bo­gie Shire Coun­cil will de­cide the lo­ca­tion of the Aus­tralia Day cit­i­zen­ship cer­e­monies at the statu­tory coun­cil meet­ing prior to the day.

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