The outlook for Australia Day activities organised by local governments remains fluid, with many councils reviewing planned events because of Covid-19 health concerns and crowd restrictions.
In late November, ALGA News reported that Canterbury Bankstown, Liverpool, North Sydney, Inner West, and the Hills Councils in NSW had all cancelled events – as had the Perth metropolitan councils of Armadale and Bassendean.
Since then, other councils have cancelled or curtailed events, including citizenship ceremonies.
Political controversies, including “Invasion Day” protests, are also continuing to affect planned local government activities – with allegations in the media that councils supportive of changing the date of Australia Day to reflect Indigenous concerns have used Covid-19 as an excuse to avoid staging celebrations.
This week, federal independent MP Zali Steggall wrote to ALGA President Linda Scott suggesting councils “consider incorporating [in their activities] one minute’s silence in recognition of the loss, hurt and sorrow felt by our Indigenous community on this day”.
The Morrison Government has rejected the idea, with Citizenship Minister Alex Hawke saying it will only increase divisions.
Some local governments have already introduced a reconciliation element to their Australia Day activities.
The Melbourne and Ballarat City Councils, for example, support or have instituted “Survival Day” dawn ceremonies to reflect changed community attitudes.
ALGA’s position on the scope of Australia Day activities is that these are matters for individual councils to consider based on consultations with their communities.