Redefining January 26

Macedon Ranges council (Damjan Janevski). 322848_01

Zoe Moffatt

Macedon Ranges council is redefining its relationship with January 26, and will not host events on that day next year, following a heated debate on the topic.

At its meeting on August 23, council voted to hold the annual community awards and citizenship ceremony on January 25, and to increase the Australia Day grants program funding cap to $1000.

Council said the three Traditional Owner Countries that are located in Macedon Ranges council area indicated 100 per cent support for changing the date of Australia Day in a City of Melbourne survey.

Councillor Geoff Neil passionately argued against the motion and said he may not be “woke”, but he has “woken up”.

“On the 26th of January, 1949 Australian nationality came into existence when the Nationality and Citizenship Act of 1948 was enacted. This was the day we were first called Australians,” he said.

“The act… gives Australians old and new the right to live under the protection of Australian law united as one nation.

“We just want to destroy our own history… I may not be woke, but I have woken up and I do not like what I can see.”

Cr Jennifer Anderson spoke for the motion and said people in the community have said to her that they do not want the citizens ceremony to be held on January 26.

“Change is always difficult and sometimes it’s more difficult for some people than others,” she said.

“More and more people are saying [they] want a date that’s not on the Australian Day holiday because for them, they feel they want to be part of an Australia that embraces all Australians.

“We don’t forget history, we don’t throw it out, history is history, we learn as we go and we learn to be inclusive.

“First Nations people in the Macedon Ranges… have told us that they feel uncomfortable and do not want to take part in anything that occurs on January 26.”

Cr Rob Guthrie, Cr Anderson, mayor Annette Death, Cr Mark Ridgeway and Cr Janet Pearce voted for the motion. Cr Neil and Cr Dominic Bonanno voted against.