Shire looks into date debate
Council hosting forum with Indigenous community about national day
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.