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