Australia Day: Local councils push for date change debate

Local councils are pushing for the federal government to change the date of Australia Day.


A national meeting of representatives from 560 local councils has backed a plan to come up with ideas on ways to lobby the commonwealth to switch Australia Day from January 26, a date that marks the arrival of the first fleet from England.

The Australian Local Government Association said its board would consider what action to take at a meeting in July.

“The ALGA board noted the level of debate and the closeness of the result of the debate and will take these matters into consideration when determining a course of action,” the association said in a statement.

Related reading

In a close 64-62 vote on Tuesday, council representatives at the annual National General Assembly of the ALGA in Canberra voted to back a motion by Hobart City Council for councils to consider efforts they could take to lobby the government for a date change.

The vote came ahead of a planned address by Australia Day Council chairman Ben Roberts-Smith to delegates on the final day of the assembly on Wednesday.

Hobart City Council has been at the forefront of growing calls for Australia Day to be changed from January 26, a date many indigenous people regard as “Invasion Day”.

0:00 Fremantle hosts alternative Australia Day Share Fremantle hosts alternative Australia Day

Hobart’s councillors in April voted in favour of lobbying the federal government to find a new date and said they would consult with the local Aboriginal community to find an alternative date.

Across the country in Perth, the City of Fremantle moved some of its Australia Day events to January 28 this year, citing cultural sensitivities and calls from local Aboriginal elders that January 26 was not a day to celebrate.

However the growing calls for change could face stiff opposition by federal politicians.

Greens senator Rachel Siewart failed in her bid in February to get the Senate to support a date change, with Liberal, Labor and cross bench senators voting against a motion acknowledging January 26 as a day of mourning for many indigenous people as it represented the start of colonisation.

Thousands of indigenous Australians and their supporters marked Australia Day this year by marching in protests in major cities, calling for the date to be changed.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that while everyone is entitled to debate the date of Australia Day, the government does not support a change.