Hobart City Council shuns Australia Day for citizenship ceremonies in close vote

A call of “shame” from the public gallery and rejections of racism accusations preceded a vote by the City of Hobart to move its citizenship ceremony away from Australia Day.

The vote passed by only one vote after a debate which also included a suggestion to lobby for a referendum on changing the Australia Day date.

The council has joined the City of Sydney, which decided to move its ceremony to January 27, although Hobart’s move will come into effect from next year due to arrangements already being in place with the Sandy Bay Regatta.

The previous Coalition government had stripped councils of the power to hold citizenship ceremonies should they not be on January 26, but this was reversed by the Albanese government last month.

The decision is set to result in councils across Australia reconsidering their positions.

Protesters in an Invasion Day rally in Hobart.
Aboriginal Tasmanians hold “invasion day” rallies across the state on Australia Day.  (ABC News: Katri Uibu)

Hobart councillor Ryan Posselt said the council could help to “lead the conversation” on Australia Day.

“A change of the date will mean the entirety of the community can get behind it. At the moment, our First Nations people — Aboriginal Australians — can’t get behind it, and it’s divisive in and of itself,” he said.

“What sort of celebration is it if we can’t celebrate together?

“Running celebratory events that expressly exclude the rightful custodians of this land is detrimental to social cohesion and healing moving forward.”

In 2019, the City of Launceston voted to move its citizenship ceremonies from January 26 – one of several councils nationwide, which prompted the former government’s crackdown. Launceston then reversed its decision.

Hobart alderman Marti Zucco said he had friends who had specifically requested to have their ceremonies on January 26, which resulted in a call of “shame” from the public gallery.

Alderman Zucco then rejected that the debate was about “racism”.

“I understand there’s division, I understand there are members of the Aboriginal community who call it Invasion Day, but at the end of the day, at the moment, that is the designated day,” he said.