Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Darebin

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have maintained a strong physical and cultural presence in Darebin in the face of displacement, disenfranchisement and policies of assimilation. At the 2016 Census, Darebin had a census population count of 1,167 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (one of the largest proportions of Aboriginal residents of the 31 municipalities in Greater Melbourne). Since the mid-20th century this community has played a prominent role in the national struggle for Aboriginal rights and social justice.

Darebin Council supports the celebration of Australia’s national identity, just not on 26 January.

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Why is Darebin City Council opposed to marking 26 January?

In addition to providing important services like rubbish and roads maintenance, councils are responsible for protecting the health and wellbeing of their communities. Darebin Council is opposed to Australia's national celebration being held on 26 January out of respect for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who have told us that they experience a day of sadness, pain and disconnection. Australia Day, and its history, is complex for many Australians, in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 26 January commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet and the planting of the Union Flag on Gadigal Country (in Port Jackson). For the Wurundjeri and the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, this marks the beginning of invasion and dispossession. Celebratory events held on this anniversary only intensify the sadness, pain and disconnection experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There is growing national debate on the relevance and significance of Australia Day celebrations, specifically concerning the date 26 January. At the most recent Australian Local Government Congress, the following motion was carried (64-62 in favour):

That the National General Assembly encourage Australian councils to consider efforts they could take to lobby the Federal Government to change the date of recognition of Australia Day.

This national debate has highlighted the complexities and emotional responses to Australia Day. Importantly, it has created a discourse about how Darebin can take a leadership role and make Australia Day an inclusive one for all that brings people together in the spirit of respect and recognition at the local level. To have a truly inclusive national celebration we need to find a day which includes, honours and celebrates the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have inhabited this land for 60,000 plus years prior to European settlement.

What did Council base this decision on?

Celebrations held on 26 January are known to have a disproportionately negative impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, many of whom experience the day as a sad and painful day. This is why this Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with links to Darebin were the target of the consultation. To gather broader community sentiment, we also opted to survey non-Aboriginal people through our 27 advisory committees. Our decision was based on this information, a general knowledge of our community through a range of Council networks, and the visible groundswell of support for change demonstrated by the estimated 50,000 Melburnians – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – who took to the streets on 26 January earlier this year.

Who did Council consult with?

We have a longstanding relationship with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and 26 January has been a topic of discussion with the community for many years. Consultation included a roundtable discussion with the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee and engagement with community leaders through an online survey. The community engagement process also utilised Council's extensive and diverse network of Council's 27 advisory committees. We also consulted with the Wurundjeri Land and Compensation Cultural Heritage Council Aboriginal Corporation.

What were the results of the community consultations?

The results of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community consultation showed that this community found Australia Day celebrations alienating, hurtful and upsetting – an anniversary that marks the beginning of invasion and dispossession. A strong theme to emerge from the consultation was the need for increased promotion of history and increased recognition of Aboriginal peoples – to foster greater compassion, acceptance and understanding in the community. The results of the survey indicate a strong level of community support for Council taking a more active role in acknowledging the experience of 26 January for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including specifically a strong level of support for Council supporting the #changethedate campaign.

  • 86% supported #changethedate campaign (86% favourable)
  • Preference for a citizenship ceremony to be held on a different day (60% favourable)
  • Support for an event that acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences of 26 January (61% favourable).

Does this mean that Darebin City Council is anti-Australia Day?

We are not anti-Australia Day, nor opposed to the celebration of national identity. We are opposed to celebrating our national identity on 26 January, a day which causes such great distress to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Will the Mayor, Councillors and staff of Darebin City Council still take a public holiday on 26 January?

As elected representatives, the Mayor and Councillors work every day for the Darebin community, including public holidays. 26 January remains a national public holiday, and Council's customer services centres and libraries will be closed. However, household rubbish and recycling collections will take place as normal. Our leisure centres will also open (but may have amended timetables).

Will I lose my public holiday on 26 January?

No, we do not want to take away the 26 January public holiday. Council is simply looking for more culturally respectful ways to mark 26 January.

Why doesn't Council stick to 'rates, roads and rubbish'?

We have a responsibility to advocate on behalf of our community, as well as deliver a range of essential services. Since the Local Government Act 1989 (Vic) was passed 30 years ago, the role of local councils has grown to do more for local communities, including "advocating the interests of the local community to other communities and governments". Our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community has told us that 26 January celebrations have a significant negative impact on their health and wellbeing. As a Council, we have a legislative responsibility to show leadership and advocate on their behalf. As important as our advocacy work is, we are equally committed to delivering a vast range of services and programs.

This is a Federal Government issue, why is Darebin Council getting involved?

We are getting involved because this is a local issue as much as it is a national one. The way we mark 26 January has a significant negative impact on our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. We have a long-standing and collaborative relationship with our local Aboriginal community, and are proud to be a leader on Aboriginal issues within the Local Government sector. Darebin also has a long-standing link to this issue through Aboriginal Elders Bill Onus, Jack Patten, Margaret Tucker and Pastor Douglas Nicholls who were part of the 'Day of Mourning' protest in Sydney on 26 January in 1938. All of these Elders would go on to play strong leadership roles in Darebin's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

26 January is our national day of celebration – why should the date be changed?

The date should be changed so it can be a celebration that includes all Australians – especially First Australians. Australia Day only became a national public holiday celebrated by all states and territories in 1994.

Will Darebin City Council be cancelling Australia Day celebrations?

No. Council does not hold national celebrations on 26 January.

In August 2017, Darebin Council decided not to hold a citizenship ceremony on 26 January and instead to move it to another date in the year out of respect for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Councils hold multiple citizenship ceremonies throughout the year and are not required to host one on 26 January however the Federal Government has revoked our right to preside over citizenship ceremonies in our local community.

Can Darebin residents still celebrate 26 January?

The Darebin community is welcome to celebrate on 26 January in any way they choose. We encourage people to reflect about what this date really means in the history of our nation and its effect on our Aboriginal community.

How your 26 January event can be more inclusive

If you would like to take part in an inclusive activity on 26 January that respects and recognises Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, here is a list of events and activities for you to consider.

Share the Spirit Festival
A family-friendly free festival with music, singing, dancing, and great food.
Where: Treasury Gardens, 2-18 Spring Street, Melbourne
Time: 12pm – 6pm
More information: facebook.com/sharethespiritfestival

Invasion/Survival Day March
Where: Parliament Gardens, Spring Street, Melbourne (assemble at Pastor Douglas and Gladys Nicholls statue)
Time: 10am onwards

Belgrave Survival Day event 
A family-friendly free festival with with music, stalls, children's activities and food. The headline act is Gawurra Gaykamangu, a Yolngu professional performing artist from Milingimbi (Yurrwi), North East Arnhem Land.
Where: Corner of Benson Street and Blair Road, Belgrave
Time: 12pm – 5pm 
More information: facebook.com

There are lots of different organisations out there promoting conversation about what 26 January means, and offering ideas about activities for the day.  Here’s a sample of ideas and links: 

  • Listen to 3KND radio's Too Deadly January 26 Australian music special - 24 hours of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Mainstream music.
  • Write something on social media about what January 26 means to you. Why are you marking it the way you are? What are your hopes for the future? Search these hashtags on social media for ideas and inspiration #ADateForAll #ChangeTheDate #SharedDreaming #OneMob #BigCountryBigHistory #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe
  • Have a conversation with friends, family members about what 26 January means to you – what does it actually celebrate and does it reflect who we are as a nation?  Australians Together offers some interesting thought starters.
  • Change it Ourselves offers suggestions for people wanting to talk to their employer about working on Australia Day instead of taking the day as a holiday.
  • Read an Acknowledgement of Country statement to family, friends or loved ones during a quiet moment or before a meal on 26 January.
  • Help us find a simple, inspiring phrase to help mainstream Australia get behind the push to change the date. Take a minute to read through our suggestions, add your own, and vote on your preferred phrase.

Darebin has a long standing relationship with the Aboriginal community and is committed to strengthening the partnership to continue the journey towards reconciliation.

Our Commitment

Darebin City Council acknowledges the traditional owners of the land; the Wurundjeri people and pays respect to their Elders both past and present.

Darebin Council's commitment and relationship with the Darebin Aboriginal community is articulated in Darebin Council’s Darebin Council's Statement of Commitment 2008.

Darebin City Council is working towards building strong partnerships with the local Aboriginal community and developing programs and delivery of services that are culturally appropriate to Aboriginal people in the municipality. Darebin Council recognises that local government can and should play a key leadership role in strengthening community participation and capacity to engage and influence Council matters  (Darebin Council Plan 2013-2017).  Council also acknowledges that these actions contribute to the journey towards reconciliation.


We are working towards a racism-free Darebin where our community's diversity is valued, celebrated, respected, embraced and leveraged. Join our efforts to help spread attention to the 'Racism. It Stops With Me' campaign.

Anti-Racism Strategy

Through our Anti-Racism Strategy 2012-2015 (extended to 2017) we work towards a racism-free Darebin where our community's diversity is valued, celebrated, respected, embraced and leveraged. Darebin is an official supporter of the Federal Government's Racism. It Stops With Me campaign which invites all Australians to reflect on what they can do to counter racism, wherever it happens.

Reporting Racism

Report Racism  is a new initiative where you can report if you have been subject to racism or witnessed racism in the community. 

Darebin City Council, Preston Customer Service have become a special reporting place in a trial of providing an opportunity to the community to report racism to the Human Rights Commission with supporting staff at specific location . The pilot targets the Aboriginal community in the first instance but any report of racism will be accepted.

Reporting places allow community members to report racism to organisations or individuals they know and trust. If a person wants to make an anonymous report, the reporting place can make the report on their behalf. Staff at these reporting locations will provide advice on how to put in a report and explain how the process works.  Reports can also be lodged on line at: www.reportracism.com.au. All reports can be lodged anonymously.

A number of designated Report Racism locations have been identified including Preston Customer Service. The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and some  local police stations are also reporting places. The reporting places are located in the cities of Darebin,  Yarra, Whittlesea and Shepparton.  Click here for a list of Reporting Places. 

The Report Racism initiative allows people to report racism (discrimination or vilification) where they have been either personally discriminated against or have been witness to racism. The initiative provides the community with an opportunity to reporting racism safely and confidently.

Report Racism is an initiative of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) in partnership with Victorian Police and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. 

For further information please see www.reportracism.com.au .

If you have questions about this initiative please contact:

Aboriginal Contacts Officer 
Ph: 8470 8366
Email: Stuart.McFarlane@darebin.vic.gov.au

Aboriginal Action Plan

Council’s work supporting the Aboriginal community is progressed through the Aboriginal Action plan (2012-2015) (extended to 2017). This work is reflective of our commitment to Equity and Inclusion and the Aboriginal Action Plan cascades from this policy. The Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee monitors the implementation of the Aboriginal Action Plan.

Darebin Aboriginal Action Plan 2012-2015 (17)

The Aboriginal Action Plan (2012-2015) formalises Council’s long–standing commitment and relationship with the Darebin Aboriginal community, extending on Council’s Statement of Commitment to its Aboriginal community first adopted in 1988. The Plan maps Council’s future directions, strengthening Council’s partnerships in facilitating a more inclusive and equitable society through a range of actions and commitments that respect the principles and philosophies of community control and self-determination. These principles value Aboriginal people’s right to full and equal participation in community life as a priority in achieving Council’s broader goals of achieving an equitable and just society.

The plan was developed with the support of the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee, following engagement with the community throughout 2011 and 2012, and was endorsed by Council on 10 December 2012. The plan is being reviewed and updated in 2017 in line with the new Council Plan. 

Aboriginal Advisory Committee

The Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee

DAAC was launched in September 2011 as an official community advisory committee to Council. The committee plays an important role in monitoring the implementation of Darebin’s Aboriginal Action Plan (2012-2015).

The DAAC’s focus is to: 
  • Provide strategic advice to Council and advocate on issues and barriers to access and equality, which affect Aboriginal people in the City of Darebin.
  • Promote and advocate for social inclusion and social justice outcomes for Darebin’s Aboriginal communities, with a view to informing and improving Council decision making in relation to policy, program, and service delivery.
  • Assist Council in gaining a greater awareness and improving responsiveness to address Aboriginal cultural heritage responsibilities.
  • Advocate for and support Aboriginal community engagement.
  • Assist Council to achieve more effective relationships and partnerships with the Aboriginal community wherever possible and demystify complex cultural issues and sensitivities requiring cooperation and collaboration. 

Aboriginal Contacts Officer
Our Aboriginal Contact Officer's role is to improve the understanding and awareness of Aboriginal culture and to provide culturally appropriate guidance to staff and council when engaging and working alongside Aboriginal people and their respective communities. The Aboriginal contact officer role is also a pivotal working connection between Aboriginal community and Council and this role is acknowledged for its cultural importance, knowledge and specialisation with bridging community with Council.

Terminology: Aboriginal, Aborigine, Koori or Indigenous?
There are no clear-cut rules, but if in doubt, it is best-practice to use the term Aboriginal – as in the Aboriginal community, or Aboriginal person. Some Aboriginal people have mixed feelings about the use of other terms such as Indigenous and Aborigine because of negative historical associations. Koori is another word frequently used by Aboriginal people in South Eastern Australia, but this is an informal term and best to be avoided by non-Aboriginal people.
(with kind permission from Yarra City Council) 


We recognise key Aboriginal events to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and improve understanding and awareness of Aboriginal needs. We also celebrate cultural places of significance at a number of locations across the City.

We host Aboriginal key events such as Sorry Day, NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week which are all aligned to the national calendar of Aboriginal events. We also celebrate a local event, Wurundjeri Week, which recognises the Traditional Owners of Darebin the Wurundjeri people. Wurundjeri Week is a relatively new celebration and is aligned to the local Melbourne Aboriginal schedule of events.

Celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through specific festivals contribute to our commitment to improve understanding and awareness of Aboriginal needs, both for staff and for the community.  It contributes specifically to the understanding that issues of importance to the Aboriginal community, including culture and heritage are to be respected recognised and commemorated. It also provides non-indigenous people an opportunity to participate in indigenous activities. 

Spiritual Healing Trail at Darebin Parklands
The spiritual healing Trail is located at the Darebin Parklands in Alphington.  The trail was a gift from the Aboriginal community as a gesture of Reconciliation. The Spiritual Healing trail aims to promote good health and wellbeing by providing a sense  of connection to the land. The trail was established by Aboriginal Elder, the late Uncle Reg Blow in partnership with us. See Information Brochure and Spiritual Healing Trail Map.

Stolen Generation Marker
The Stolen Generation Marker is a project initiated by the Aboriginal Advisory Committee. It gives recognition to members of the Aboriginal community whose lives have been affected by the assimilationist policies of previous governments when Aboriginal children were taken away from their families and fostered to White Australian families.  The impact of such policies has been devastating and still felt down the generations of today. The importance of this Marker is very significant and was launched on Sorry Day 2015.

National Sorry Day  26 May
National Sorry Day is an annual ceremonial event that is held in Australia on 26 May and coincides with the launch of the 1997 ‘Bringing them Home’ report. This date has great significance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were forcibly removed under the assimilation policies of past Governments. Sorry Day is about commemorating and raising awareness among politicians, policy makers, and the wider public about the significance of the effect upon those forcibly removed under those policies by past Government and marks their impact that this policy has had on those children that were taken from their families across Australian Aboriginal communities.

National Sorry Day May 26, 2017 - Leave a message

This year community are invited to leave a message in the commemorative Sorry Day book on display in the foyer of Council’s Customer Service Centre at 274 Gower Street, Preston, during business hours throughout National Reconciliation Week . The book will be presented to the National Sorry Day Committee.  People are also invited to view the Stolen Generations Marker located outside Council officers on High Street, Preston for a moment of reflection. 

National Reconciliation Week 27 May – 3 June
National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is celebrated across Australia each year between 27 May and 3 June. The dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey: the anniversaries of the successful 1967 referendum and the High Court Mabo decision. The week is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements and to explore how each of us can join the national reconciliation effort.

NAIDOC  First week of July
National Aboriginal Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) is a week of celebration of Aboriginal culture and acknowledgement of the contributions that indigenous Australians bring to the socio-cultural and economic development of Australia. It brings together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to participate and celebrate in the history, heritage, traditions, knowledge and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Wurundjeri Week 4- 8 August

 Wurundjeri Week is an acknowledgement and celebration of the traditional Aboriginal land owners of Melbourne including the greater Melbourne region which includes the Darebin region.  The traditional owners of the land are the Wurundjeri people and we have an ongoing commitment and agreement as outlined in our Statement Of Commitment (1998) to preserving this rich cultural heritage and its ongoing traditions by enriching the knowledge of all Darebin residence with a cultural emersion of local history and ongoing cultural events of Wurundjeri peoples.

The City of Darebin hosts a number of Aboriginal Peak Bodies, including associations and groups that lobby government on behalf of the interests of the members. From health, employment and legal services, to child care and education associations, sports clubs, music and radio.

Aboriginal community Resources

There are a number of key Aboriginal organisations in the Darebin region with its specific business mandate. These  association or groups have common interests and are generally established for the purposes of developing standards and processes, or to act on behalf of all members when lobbying government or promoting the interests of the members. The City of Darebin is unique in hosting many of the Aboriginal Peak Bodies within the Municipality. Darebin City Council has long standing relationship and have established collaborative practices with many of these groups in Darebin.

Aboriginal Organisations located within or close to Darebin include:
There are also several non-Aboriginal organisations that represent Aboriginal interests and that Council works closely with that are also located in the Darebin Regions,  these include: 

You can download an information sheet with brief descriptions and contacts to these organisations here

The City of Darebin is located on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. They are the traditional owners of this land. We can put you in touch with Local Elders, and guide you how to acknowledge the traditional owners at your ceremonies.

Traditional Owners

The City of Darebin is located on the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. They are the traditional owners of this land.

Map of Wurundjeri land area

There are also many other Aboriginal people who live and work within the City of Darebin. There are unique practices in place designed to acknowledge and pay respects to the traditional owners and Elders of the Wurundjeri Community including the convention of verbal and written acknowledgements, Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremonies.  The Darebin Website includes a written acknowledgement on each page and other protocols are followed in the preparation of speeches and at the introduction of meetings.  Council has also commenced the process of placing acknowledgment plaques on Council buildings. 

Aboriginal Heritage 

The Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations are the traditional owners and custodians of the land that is now known as the City of Darebin. Council recognises the Wurundjeri people as the custodians of the cultural heritage of this land. 

Darebin City Council have applied for a Local History Grant to help Council gather information about the local Aboriginal history and ongoing presence. 

Aboriginal people have maintained a strong physical and cultural presence in Darebin in the face of displacement, disenfranchisement and policies of assimilation. At the 2011 Census, Darebin had a census population count of 1,155 Aboriginal people (one of the largest proportions of Aboriginal residents of the 31 municipalities in Greater Melbourne). Since the mid twentieth century this community has played a prominent role in the national struggle for Aboriginal rights and social justice.

The project will create a web site that provides a historical context for the ongoing role of Aboriginal people and organisations in the City of Darebin and council’s engagement with the Aboriginal community today.  Sources of historical information will include both primary and secondary sources, including oral history. 
Results from the application will be published in June 2015. If Darebin Council is successful work will commence in August 2015.

Welcome to Country

Darebin Council engages Wurundjeri Council Elders to perform ceremonial “Welcome to Country” ceremonies whenever an official launch or a major formal public presentation takes place. “Welcome to Country” ceremonies may also include a traditional “Smoking Ceremony”. Smoking ceremonies are undertaken by Aboriginal male Elders and used to welcome people and provide safe passage onto the traditional land. The cleansing properties of the smoke produced by the burning of native plants and leaves are used to ward of bad spirits. 

Acknowledgement to Country

An Acknowledgement to Country can be performed by non-Aboriginal and non Wurundjeri Aboriginal persons as a form of verbal respect and acknowledgement to the traditional owners as is also viewed as an acknowledgement of respect to all other Aboriginal people.

For example at Darebin City Council the following words are used:  

“We pay our respects to the traditional owners of the land, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations on whose land we meet on today and we acknowledge and pay our respects to all Elders both past and present.” 

Bookings of Wurundjeri Elders for specific events

The booking of Elders for specific events such as ‘Welcome To Country” can be arranged through the Wurundjeri Council . In Aboriginal culture there is adherence around appropriateness of what constitutes Women’s and Men’s business. This might impact on whether you book a male or female Elder. Wurundjeri Council can provide advice on this matter.  A Wurundjeri booking form can be downloaded from the following link for this procedure and bookings should be made well in advance of the event date.

Booking form for a Wurundjeri booking


Further Information
Aboriginal Contact Officer 
Ph: 8470 8366