Council understands 26 January is not a day of celebration for First Nations People as it represents the date when Europeans settled in this country and commenced the decimation of First Nations ancestors and culture.
Surf Coast Shire Council has therefore resolved to not formally take part in Australia Day celebrations. We will also fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island flags at half-mast on 26 January.
We believe this is an important step on the reconciliation journey. It’s one way we are walking together and working together with First Nations people.
We are also developing our first Reconciliation Action Plan - which involves understanding and listening to First Nations People on topics and issues that affect them.
Council adopted its formal position on how it will recognise this day at the 28 September 2021 Council meeting. In making this decision Council is not saying other organisations or individuals shouldn’t have events to celebrate Australia Day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t Council just continue to have a celebration on 26 January as well as recognise the impacts on First Nations People?
Through our reconciliation action plan work to date and consultation with First Nations People on the topic of 26 January, we understand this is a day that causes sadness and difficulties for First Nations People. Therefore celebrations are not appropriate on this day.
What engagement did Council undertake?
We have held direct conversations with traditional owners from Wadawurrung and Eastern Maar countries.
We have also conducted an online survey.
The overwhelming feedback we received is the 26 January is not a day of celebration and that celebratory events are not appropriate on this day.
Council’s engagement on the Council plan showed very strong support for First Nations Reconciliation and this is now a theme in the Council Plan.
Why didn’t Council hold engagement with non-aboriginal people?
Council resolved in March to consult with first nations people on this topic.
The impact the 26 January has on First Nations People is well understood and we wanted to find out local feedback and opinion.
We did not wish to have an engagement process that was divisive so did not open it up it all people.
We are taking our Reconciliation Action Plan development very seriously so the impact of 26 January on First Nations People is a priority in our thinking.
How did Council communicate its decision?
At the time of Council’s decision we communicated widely including in local news media and on social media.
Here's a summary of the reaction to Council’s Facebook post on 29 September 2021:
Why doesn’t Council just stick to core services?
Council represents our community on things of interest to them including heath issues, environmental goals and social outcomes.
We heard loud and clear through the Council Plan development that First Nations Reconciliation is an important topic for many many people in our community.
Adjusting what we do on 26 January is a small way to move towards reconciliation with First Nations People along with our Reconciliation Action Plan and goals in the Council Plan.
Will Surf Coast Shire now not recognise the 26 January as a public holiday and will the offices be open on this day?
The federal government declares 26 January as a public holiday and Council is unable to make a decision to change this.
Council will advocate for changes to the federal government requirement to conduct Citizenship Ceremonies on this date.
Given the federal government declared public holiday, Council offices will not be open on this day.
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