16 Aug 2017

A Melbourne council to drop 'Australia Day' celebrations

6:25 pm on 16 August 2017

A council in Melbourne has voted to stop celebrating Australia Day after discussions with Aboriginal community.

A crowd gathers outside Melbourne's Flinders Station to protest the date of Australia Day.

A crowd gathers outside Melbourne's Flinders Station earlier this year to protest the date of Australia Day. Photo: Twitter / @sallyrugg

The City of Yarra made the unanimous decision to drop all references to Australia Day and cease holding citizenship ceremonies on 26 January.

Australia Day is the anniversary of the arrival of Britain's first settlers in 1788, an event many indigenous Australians refer to as "Invasion Day".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull criticised the council's decision.

"The council is using a day that should unite Australians to divide Australians," he said in a statement.

"An attack on Australia Day is a repudiation of the values the day celebrates: freedom, a fair go, mateship and diversity."

The council said it had made its decision following months of consultation.

"We have been informed very consistently from the Aboriginal community in Yarra and more broadly that it is not a day of celebration for them," Mayor Amanda Stone said.

"It is very hard to reconcile having a day of national celebration when one whole sector of the population feels excluded."

However, she said the council had also taken many calls from people opposing the decision.

Calls to shift Australia Day have grown in recent years. This year, "Invasion Day" protests were held around the country.

Last year, a Western Australian council also attempted to shift its celebrations but reversed its decision following pressure from Mr Turnbull's government.

Mr Turnbull said he acknowledged the day was "complex for many indigenous Australians", but the "overwhelming majority" of Australians believed the date should not change.

According to a recent survey, more than 70 percent of Australians identify the day as important to them, but only 43 percent could name its historical origin.

- BBC

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