FREMANTLE mayor Brad Pettitt has accused the Morrison government of turning Australia Day into a political football ahead of this year’s federal election.
This month the government announced it was revising the citizenship code to make it compulsory for councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on January 26 from next year, after some councils in the eastern states refused to hold them on that date.
Dr Pettitt says, “It’s disappointing the federal government is continuing to use citizenship ceremonies for blatantly political purposes in the lead up to a federal election, and as a distraction from the important discussion about the best date on which to celebrate our national day.
“It’s important to make the distinction between citizenship ceremonies and the debate over the best date to celebrate our national day.”
Three years ago Fremantle council kickstarted a national debate on Australia Day when it announced it would be scrapping its traditional fireworks and holding an alternative inclusive event, One Day in Fremantle, a few days later.
Now in it’s third year, One Day has proved immensely popular and this year’s event on January 27 will continue to include a smoking ceremony at Bathers Beach, Aboriginal workshops and a family-friendly concert headlined by Montaigne on the Esplanade Reserve.
However the council will continue to toe the federal line and hold citizen ceremonies on January 26.
Tangney federal MP Ben Morton, who lambasted the City of Fremantle when they first ditched their AD celebrations, says his stance on the issue hasn’t changed.
He cites a recent poll, by the think tank Institute of Public Affairs, which found that 71 per cent of Australian wanted the public holiday to stay put and 78 per cent were proud to celebrate on January 26.
“Public opinion is firmly with me on this issue and not with the activists on Fremantle Council,” he says.
“I’ve spoken with more indigenous people who are focused on improving the lives of indigenous people than I have who support changing the date of Australia Day.
“I’ve visited indigenous communities in our state’s north. People wanted to talk about jobs, health, alcohol and education, not once was Australia Day even mentioned!”
“Quite frankly we need less activism and division and more people focused on making the lives of all Australians better.”
If you want to participate in the debate, Fremantle Network will be holding “Politics in the pub: Should we change the date of Australia Day?” on Tuesday January 29, 7pm, at The Local Hotel.
by STEPHEN POLLOCK
MELVILLE will continue to hold its annual community breakfast on Australia Day as changing the date has never been raised by local Aboriginal elders, says mayor Russell Aubrey.
Mr Aubrey says Melville council was the first local government in WA to release a Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan and “throughout the process of developing the RAP, the city worked closely with Elders and members of the community, and this issue was never raised.”
Mr Aubrey added that “Australia Day and the issue of citizenship ceremonies is an issue for the federal government…and the city will be guided by the federal government in terms of changes to the citizenship code.”
He says their AD community breakfast usually attracted hundreds of people and includes a special citizenship ceremony.
“Our community citizens of the year awards are also announced, in thanks and recognition for their outstanding service over a number of years and notable contributions to their community,” Mr Aubrey said.
The Chook contacted EAST FREMANTLE council to get mayor Jim O’Neill’s thoughts on Australia Day, but they never got back to us.
AS part of the revision to the citizenship code, the federal government is demanding that people don’t wear thongs, boardies and singlets at citizenship ceremonies, and adopt more formal attire.
The move incensed Geraldton mayor Shane Van Styn who has started a petition online to reverse the ban:
“Our Aussie PM has decided to ban boardshorts, singlets and thongs being worn by our newest Aussies on our greatest day, Australia Day,” he wrote.
“As a former bouncer myself, where is the line between boardies and casual shorts? Where is the line between thongs for men and slip-ons for women? Why would a singlet be banned for men but a light shoulderless top be ok for women? What about our Islander and Asian friends whose slip-ons are a part of national dress?
“Here in Geraldton, our ceremony is done down on the beach in between sets of music on our wonderful family foreshore in about 40 degree heat. If old mate new citizen wants to chuck on a pair of pluggers and celebrate all things Australian, then he should be able to do that.
“Whilst I am officiating Australia Day citizenship ceremonies as the mayor of the City of Greater Geraldton, if you want to emblazon yourself in an Australian singlet or wear boardies cause you are joining in the fun, I will let you up on stage and gladly welcome you as a new Australian.
“So ScoMo you Ocker, (albeit US cap wearing) affable, fair dinkum Aussie. See it in your heart to set those pluggers free on Australia Day.
“If you agree with me that the PM is going too far with this dress code, sign my petition and share it.”