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.
- On a one-vote majority, the Hobart City Council has chosen to move its future citizenship ceremonies away from Australia Day
- The change was possible after a ban on moving them by the former federal government was reversed by Anthony Albanese
- The Aboriginal community says Hobart council’s move could lead the way for other councils to follow suit
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.
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.
“I believe that is what we should be doing; writing to the federal government, asking the federal government to add the issue on Australia Day to the Voice referendum, so we can have a referendum at one time on the Voice, and also on changes to Australia Day.”
Councillor Louise Elliot requested that the council first engage with the Sandy Bay Regatta, as well as those who were planning to have their ceremony on January 26, before making a decision.
The decision passed six votes to five, with one abstention which counts as a no.
It allows the ceremony to be moved by three days either side of Australia Day.
Aboriginal community welcomes decision
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre campaign manager Nala Mansell said Hobart’s decision should prompt a renewed debate over January 26.
“We are seeing right across Tasmania so many different local councils, sporting clubs and event organisers standing up and making positive change on the Invasion Day issue,” she said.
“It goes to show that it’s not just an Aboriginal issue. It’s an issue for any decent person with any type of moral compass.”