Oz Day: It’s off, it’s on, it’s def­i­nite now

The Riverine Herald - - NEWS -

IT ended up be­ing a storm in a teacup.

Mathoura will have an Aus­tralia Day cer­e­mony in 2019.

Con­flict erupted at Mur­ray River Coun­cil’s De­cem­ber or­di­nary meet­ing when it was an­nounced in the con­fi­den­tial re­port Mathoura would not hold Aus­tralia Day cel­e­bra­tions due to ‘‘a lack of in­ter­est’’.

Mayor Chris Bilkey said coun­cil had put the call out for Mathoura com­mu­nity groups to run the event but didn’t re­ceive a sin­gle re­sponse.

With Moama’s cer­e­mony held in Echuca this year, it meant there would be no events in the for­mer Mur­ray Shire.

An an­nounce­ment which left Cr Tom Weyrich out­raged.

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‘‘It’s a bloody dis­grace and an­other kick in the guts for Mathoura,’’ he said af­ter the meet­ing.

‘‘To say there was no in­ter­est from the Mathoura com­mu­nity, that’s a load of crap. I’ve chat­ted to peo­ple around town but no one’s seen it ad­ver­tised.

‘‘Coun­cil has al­ways run Aus­tralia Day and all that went out to ten­der was cater­ing. And yet lo­cals said they’d never even heard about calls for cater­ers.

‘‘There’s an ex­pec­ta­tion the cer­e­mony will be on. I can see no rea­son why they’ve got­ten rid of it.’’

But Cr Bilkey said the con­fu­sion lay in changes made to lo­cal Aus­tralia Day cer­e­monies pre­vi­ous coun­cil meet­ing.

While Mur­ray Shire Coun­cil pre­vi­ously ran events in key hubs, this was changed in June to match Wakool, where cer­e­monies are run by com­mu­nity groups with ‘‘coun­cil sup­port’’.

‘‘Once this was de­cided we asked for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from com­mu­nity groups. In ev­ery com­mu­nity ex­cept Mathoura we had groups put their hands up,’’ Cr Bilkey said.

Indig­nant about the de­ci­sion, Cr Weyrich vol­un­teered in the meet­ing to run the cer­e­mony him­self, with coun­cil­lors Ge­off Wise and Nikki Co­hen also of­fer­ing to help.

How­ever, Cr Bilkey said af­ter the at a meet­ing he spoke to Mathoura com­mu­nity mem­bers in a Meet the Coun­cil­lors ses­sion and had sev­eral in­di­vid­u­als put their hands up.

It was then de­cided the cer­e­mony would pro­ceed, to be run by these vol­un­teers.

But when the Riv con­tacted Cr Weyrich for com­ment on this progress, he said he was in the dark about the late change.

‘‘I said at the meet­ing I’d run it, I was the only coun­cil­lor go­ing for it, why would he go and or­gan­ise some­one else?’’

Cr Bilkey said he hadn’t con­tacted Cr Weyrich about the change, but clar­i­fied the cer­e­mony would be co­or­di­nated by Cr Weyrich, with help from com­mu­nity vol­un­teers.

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