Australia day banished?

Hume council (Damjan Janevski). 336543_02

Zoe Moffatt

Hume councillors have overwhelmingly voted for Australia Day recognition to recommence throughout the municipality, kicking off the first council meeting for the year.

The controversial nature of the January 26 public holiday was discussed by councillors in a meeting on February 12, including the flying of Australian flags, wording about the day and official events.

Councillor Trevor Dance raised the notice of motion, and questioned why there were no formal celebrations in Sunbury and surrounds this year when the day is a gazetted national public holiday.

“It’s a legal holiday but Hume council have been progressively removing any reference to this day,” he said.

“We recognise Christmas, Melbourne Cup Day, AFL day, Easter and so on, but why not our national day. It’s really outrageous that we do not. What has happened in the past is just that, and we need to move on.

“To see our national day vanishing from our media and our platform at council sends a very poor message out to our community.”

Cr Dance said in discussion with the chief executive, he was told that council has made no decision in relation to Australia Day. The council hasn’t had celebrations on Australia Day since 2021.

“So I say why is [the day] close to being banished by Hume council when there has not even been a decision by council to do so?”

Councillor Joseph Haweil amended the notice of motion to include the recommendation that the Australian flag be raised on all council owned flag poles at council’s main hubs and prominently across other facilities in Hume.

Likened to America’s patriotic flag flying, Cr Dance said the idea would be to have the Australian flag fly on the main council buildings, alongside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.

“We should be like America where they fly their flags everywhere and they are proud of flying their flags. That’s what I want to see here,” he said.

Cr Haweil also included an amendment that council prepares a report on the options available to running an Australia Day celebration event in Sunbury and the rest of Hume for all of the community to attend.

“All of Hume’s residents are proud of being Australians, all of Hume’s residents across the breadth and diversity of our city celebrate Australia Day. It is an incredibly important day for very many residents,” he said.

Councillor Jarrod Bell spoke against the notice of motion and said he did not see the utility of the motion and voted against it. Mayor Naim Kurt was the only other council to vote against it.

“I am an incredibly proud Australian, [however]… I do not think January 26 should be Australia’s national holiday,” Cr Bell said.

“It is quite clearly a day that causes significant harm, hurt and distress to a significant portion of our community. One that we should be respecting and understanding, learning and thinking more deeply about.

“I will note that there is no other public holiday in the Australian calendar that Hume holds specific events for, this would be unique in our civic calendar.

“To be a proud Australian also recognises that we are a country with flaws and with a chequered history as well.”