FREMANTLE council spent $100,000 attracting a little over 1000 people to its Australia Day alternative on January 25 this year.
That’s equivalent to spending roughly $100 for every spectator.
It’s a far cry from the inaugural event in 2017 which attracted 15,000 people (that’s about 8 dollars each on a $120,000 budget), which has prompted the federal minister responsible for Australia Day to declare it a flop.
“People have voted with their feet,” said Tangney MP Ben Morton, who as assistant minister to the prime minister and cabinet was recently put in charge of the Australia Day Council.
“Local residents are missing out on the opportunity to mark Australia Day with their community and the Fremantle business community are hurting because of it,” Mr Morton said.
“Until 2017, Fremantle attracted thousands for its Australia Day events and fireworks, giving local businesses a needed boost every year on January 26.”
Mr Morton said he’d be happy to work with mayor Brad Pettitt and the council to design an Australia Day program that was less about celebrating and more about reflecting.
“It’s a day to listen to each other and respect each other’s stories and contributions, and to acknowledge that whatever our experience and backgrounds, that first and foremost we are Australians together.”
“It’s important to acknowledge that January 26 means different things to different people, particularly Indigenous Australians, but changing the date does not change our history.
“Instead, we should be focusing on doing Australia Day better, more respectfully and inclusively, rather than cancelling events and having often divisive debate around the date.”
But Dr Pettitt said he was pleased with the turnout and the strong connection to the Fremantle community the event had helped foster.
“Because it’s not a ticketed event it’s hard to get an accurate assessment of the crowd numbers for One Day, but I would have thought the numbers at the smoking ceremony alone would have been well in excess of 500, and then there would have been many more people coming and going throughout the course of the day,” Dr Pettitt said.
“There were also several hundred people for the sunset ceremony in the evening.
“We always expected the crowds this year to be smaller because Bathers Beach is a smaller space and we didn’t have the big headline act at the concert on the Esplanade.
“The intention this year was to make it a more intimate and meaningful event.
“The feedback I’ve received about the day has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Fremantle Chamber of Commerce CEO Danicia Quinlan was also unfazed by any impact on business, saying the council had consulted with two of its sub-committees on changing the format of Australia Day.
“The feeling from the group was to let the community guide their own local activities without bring a lot of people into town to a concert that only benefitted the concert organisers,” Ms Quinlan said.
“Our recommendation to the city based on our committee feedback was to find creative ways to get together on our beautiful coast to share stories, song and create our own version of Australia Day long weekend that supports local people and local business.”
The City of Perth’s fireworks show attracted 250,000 people. Despite an appeal from premier Mark McGown to “dig deep” and turn it into a fire fundraiser, the council raised just $7251 from attendees – an average of 3 cents each.
Luckily the council had pitched in its own $50,000 donation.
by STEVE GRANT