Education at the heart of future recognition of 26 January

Published on 06 December 2022

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Picking up on requests from the community, Council will be working with local First Nations people to develop and implement better education around 26 January – Australia’s current National Day – which it will also now acknowledge as a day of mourning for many First Nations people.

Council unanimously supported the recommendations at its meeting on 6 December which also included continuing to lower the Australian, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags on 26 January as a symbol of the grief and loss the day represents for many First Nations people.

The recommendations were informed by community engagement during 2021, which sought to understand community thinking around a more respectful way to acknowledge a day, which for some is controversial, painful and traumatic representing a day of mourning and sorrow, and for others a national day of celebration.

Council received close to 4,000 pieces of feedback from an online survey, workshops, and the Annual Community Satisfaction Survey. A petition containing nearly 400 signatures asking Council to consider recognising 26 January as Invasion Day/Day of Mourning/Survival Day, and to work with local Aboriginal communities and Traditional Owners to appropriately mark the day, was also received.

While there was strong support from those who engaged for Council to reconsider how it currently acknowledges 26 January, Mayor, Councillor Sarah Carter, said the one key takeaway from all the feedback received was that respectful acknowledgement is about more than just one day.

“Beyond 26 January, we were told there needed to be a commitment to continue to engage, educate and inform around the wider issues and complexities. This is so that those who may not be as aware of the background to this significant and increasingly mainstream issue, particularly in respect to the experiences of First Nations Peoples, could better understand the stories and appreciate their journey. And we have listened.”

Mayor Carter said this also aligns with the key message from elders and First Nations representatives that ‘a Welcome to County needs to go beyond just a verbal acknowledgment at the top of a meeting. “They want their stories and their journey to be better understood and appreciated and it has been heartening to hear that a large part of our community wants that too.”

Along with promoting better community education more generally, Traditional Owners will be invited to participate in Citizenship Ceremonies on 26 January to welcome new Australians and provide a small gift sourced from local First Nations businesses.

The findings from the 2021 engagement were reinforced in follow-up deliberations with First Nations Peoples, as requested by the community, which resulted in the seven recommendations, now endorsed by Council, which also included:

Council additionally resolved to write to the Prime Minister, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Minister for Indigenous Australians, and the Member for Maribyrnong advocating the:

  • Current citizenship ceremony requirements be revisited to allow Councils to choose whether to continue to hold ceremonies on 26 January,
  • Include First Nations information and history as part of Australian Citizenship tests; and,
  • Considers changing the date of Australia’s National Day.

It will also table an advocacy motion at the 2023 Australian Local Government Association national conference in support of the experience of First Nations Peoples of 26 January.

Maribyrnong News

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