MORE WA councils are considering following Fremantle’s lead and ditching their Australia Day celebrations, claims mayor Brad Pettitt.
One Day in Fremantle on January 28 was a resounding success, with a couple of hundred people attending an Aboriginal smoking ceremony at the Round House, then 15,000 cramming the Esplanade for an early evening concert featuring John Butler.
Dr Pettitt says he has been contacted by a number of councillors in other WA shires who are keen to carry on the Fremantle revolt.
“The day was everything we hoped for; diverse, inclusive with lots of different nationalities and Aboriginal families down there,” he says.
“From the smoking ceremony in the morning to the concert later on, everything went well.
“And most importantly, it was lots of fun.
“A number of councillors have been in touch expressing they want to do something similar,” says Dr Pettitt.
Tangney Liberal MP Ben Morton, who successfully lobbied to have the council’s citizenship ceremony moved back to January 26, took out a full-page Australia Day advert in the Herald, replete with thongs, fireworks and lyrics from Australia’s national anthem.
“It’s up to Ben how he wants to spend taxpayers’ money,” quipped Dr Pettitt.
“Ben and I strongly disagree on the issue, but I hope he came down to the One Day event and took something from it.
“The citizenship ceremony on Australia Day was a really nice occasion and there was no hostility towards me from people becoming citizens.”
Fremantle’s stance has sparked a national debate, with calls from WA Noongar elder Robert Isaacs for a referendum on the issue, and others wanting the date shifted to May 8 (mate).
“The conversation has been started and that’s what we wanted to achieve,” says Dr Pettitt.
“If any decision is made on changing the date, I feel it will be made by another tier of government.”
by STEPHEN POLLOCK