Our decision on 26 January
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 Woi Wurrung people and the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, this marks the beginning of violent 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.”
The landscape in Victoria is changing with the development of a Treaty framework and the establishment of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission.
Year on year, the conversation around 26 January deepens and develops as Victorians learn more, embrace truth-telling and recognise our shared history.
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 at least 60,000 plus years prior to European invasion.
On the first weekend in September, Council now hosts an annual community event called Ganbu Gulin recognising and celebrating First Nations peoples and the wider Darebin community. Co-designed with the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee and Traditional Owners, the event features a Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Welcome Ceremony and is an opportunity for the Darebin community to join us in recognising and celebrating First Nations people, raising community awareness and coming together as a proud, diverse and inclusive community for all. The inaugural event took place on 1 September 2019.
What did Council base this decision on?
We have a longstanding relationship with the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and 26 January has been a topic of discussion within the community for many years. In 2017 we undertook a community engagement process , including a roundtable discussion with the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee and engagement with community leaders through an online survey. As part of this process we also gathered feedback from non-Indigenous community members through our 27 advisory committees. We also consulted with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation
What were the results of community consultations?
The results showed that our community found Australia Day celebrations alienating, hurtful and upsetting – on 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 indicated a strong level of support for Council taking a more active role in acknowledging the experience of 26 January for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including 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).
Lowering of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags
Following consultation with the Darebin Aboriginal Advisory Committee, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags are set at half-post on 26 January, as a mark of recognition, respect and mourning. This is to acknowledge that:
- January 26 marks the beginning of the British invasion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands and oppression of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- The first Day of Mourning was held on January 26, 1938, being the 150th anniversary of the British invasion. This Day was attended by Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous supporters in protest of the national holiday and the ‘callous treatment’ of Aboriginal people and continues to be held annually.
- To acknowledge that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people never ceded sovereignty
- To build better understanding with the broader Darebin community of Australia’s history and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community’s pain in relation to the significance and history of January 26.
The flags are lowered at Councils’ Municipal Offices in Preston, Bundoora Park and Bundoora Homestead Art Centre.