Yarra City Council decision on January 26

Tuesday 15 August 2017

Yarra Council has voted unanimously to change the way it marks January 26, from 2018 onwards. 

Yarra Mayor, Cr Amanda Stone said the changes have been informed by in-depth conversations with the local Aboriginal community, as well as feedback from the broader Yarra community.

“The overwhelming sentiment from our Aboriginal community is that January 26 is a date of sadness, trauma and distress. They have told us that this is not a day of celebration, but a day of mourning,” said Cr Stone.

“We also commissioned an independent survey of nearly 300 non-Indigenous people in Yarra, which showed strong support for change. 78.6% of broader community respondents supported the idea of Council holding an event to acknowledge Aboriginal experiences of January 26.

“In recognition of our Aboriginal community’s experiences, we will hold a small, culturally-sensitive event acknowledging the loss of culture, language and identity felt by the community on January 26.

“We will also be undertaking community education to help people better understand the Aboriginal community’s experiences of this date,” she said.

“In the last 12 months there has been a groundswell of community support for change from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people across the country. The community is looking for leadership on this issue.

“People can still have their barbeques and parties on the January 26 public holiday, but I hope our stance encourages people to stop and think about what this date really means in the history of our nation.

“A celebration of national identity should be inclusive of all Australians. 26 January is not an appropriate date because it marks the beginning of British colonisation and the loss of culture, language and land for Australia’s First Peoples,” said Cr Stone.

In addition, Council will no longer hold a citizenship ceremony on January 26. However, it will continue to hold the bimonthly ceremonies on other days throughout the year. 


Moved: Councillor Chen Yi Mei                     Seconded: Councillor Coleman

1.         That:

(a)       Council, from 2018 onwards, promote and hold a small-scale, culturally-sensitive event featuring a Smoking Ceremony on January 26 that acknowledges the loss of culture, language and identity felt by Aboriginal community on January 26;

(b)       Council commit to a communications plan that focuses on broader community education to help people better understand Aboriginal community experiences of January 26 and to explain Council’s position on January 26;

(c)       Council commit to translating a January 26 information sheet into the 6 most commonly spoken community languages in Yarra, and partner with the Yarra Settlement Forum and the Yarra Multicultural Advisory Group to distribute and promote; 

(d)       Council partner with Melbourne Aboriginal Youth Sport and Recreation Incorporated to run an education workshop for young Aboriginal people, run by and featuring a panel of local Aboriginal Elders with connections to Fitzroy, the establishment of important Aboriginal organisations and other achievements;

(e)       Council in collaboration with the Municipal Association of Victoria, Victorian Local Government Association, Reconciliation Victoria and State Government departments to hold an event in the second half of 2017 to share this report and its recommendations;

(f)        Council lobby and seek partnerships with State Government departments and other interested parties to acknowledge the Aboriginal community’s pain and disconnection with Australia on January 26, and seek opportunities to promote education about this in the wider community;

(g)       Council contact Melbourne City Council and Songlines to see how Council can support and promote Share the Spirit Festival in 2018;

(h)       Council cease referring to January 26 as Australia Day in all communications, to acknowledge the fact that this date commemorates the British invasion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands and is therefore not an appropriate date for an inclusive national celebration;

(i)         Council refer to January 26 merely as January 26 until a more appropriate term is adopted nationally – a term which acknowledges the experiences of the people who inhabited the land for over 60,000 years prior to the raising of the Union Flag on Gadigal country on January 26 in 1788;

(j)         Council cease holding Citizenship Ceremonies on January 26; 

(k)       Council continue to recognise excellence and service in Yarra’s community through Community Awards, but awarded on days other than January 26 and on days that better suit the nature of each award, and not under the banner of Australia Day Awards;

(l)         Council officially support the #changethedate campaign in Council publications and social media in the lead up to January 26 in 2018 and beyond in seeking a more inclusive day to celebrate national pride; and

(m)     Council consider ways it can lobby the Federal Government to change the date in line with the resolution passed by National General Assembly of Local Government in June 2017.



You can learn more about changes to January 26 here.


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