Council offers to dump Australia Day ceremonies
AFTER flirting with the idea of becoming the first NSW council to scrub Australia Day celebrations, the Inner West has instead become the first in the country to offer citizenship ceremonies in NAIDOC Week as an alternative to January 26.
The move was in response to a failed Greens proposal to allow an indigenous advisory committee to decide "how or if council should engage with this day (January 26)".
That proposal had the potential to see Australia Day celebrations dumped, following the controversial lead of three Melbourne councils and Fremantle council in WA.
Instead the council will become the first in Australia to write to would-be citizens, specifically asking if they want to become citizens during NAIDOC week in July.
The resolution, passed at the October 12 meeting, committed to "holding a citizenship ceremony during NAIDOC week, and that we focus the theme of that ceremony upon Aboriginal history and culture".
"If you do it well and tastefully it could be a really moving ceremony," Labor mayor Darcy Byrne said.
"Citizenship ceremonies during NAIDOC Week are a commonsense way to acknowledge the hurt people have experienced."
Mr Darcy stopped short of cancelling Australia Day celebrations or citizenship ceremonies, saying "it would be divisive".
Liberal Deputy Mayor Julie Passas voted against the resolution, describing it as "ridiculous".
"And I am sick and tired of bleeding hearts raising issues which are not issues," she said.
"The generations brought up celebrating Australia Day, Christmas and Easter are being made to feel uncomfortable."
Councils are recommended to hold citizenship ceremonies every two or three months, according to the Department of Immigration's Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code.
The federal government encourages ceremonies on Australia Day and Australian Citizenship Day on September 17.
"The department has not traditionally liaised with councils about providing clients with the explicit option of having their citizenship ceremony during NAIDOC week," an Immigration Department spokeswoman said.
"The department would be open to exploring the possibility of offering clients the option to attend their citizenship ceremony during NAIDOC week."
There is no mention of NAIDOC Week in the ceremonies code.
NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The spokeswoman said 38 councils had held citizenship ceremonies during NAIDOC week this year (July 2-9, 2017) but Inner West would be the first to offer immigrants who did not like Australia Day the option to become citizens at that time.