Inner West Council votes to change January 26 events

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Inner West Council has voted at last night’s meeting to move all celebratory events other than the citizenship ceremony away from the 26 of January.

Council will continue to hold a respectful citizenship ceremony on 26 January, but the celebration in Enmore Park will instead become a summer children’s and families festival, to be held on another date and the Citizen of the Year awards will move to a different date.

Council is encouraging its community to attend the Yabun Festival on 26 January to celebrate and learn about the history of the world’s oldest, continuous, human civilisation.

Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne said that the move was about recognising that 26 January was a day that represented sadness for many Aboriginal Australians.

“It’s a small but respectful act of recognition,” he said. “The right thing to do.”

“Attitudes towards 26 January are changing in the community. For Aboriginal people, the date represents the beginning of colonisation, dispossession, the removal of children and deliberate destruction of language and culture. A growing number of Australians want that to be respectfully acknowledged.

“In the Inner West we are choosing to change the nature of the day to one of commemoration not celebration.

The move has been supported by Reconciliation NSW:

“Reconciliation NSW supports the proposal before Inner West Council to move all Australia Day ceremonial and celebratory events, other than the citizenship ceremony, away from 26 January in recognition of the meaning of the day to Aboriginal people.
The arrival of Europeans dramatically changed the lives and freedoms of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout Australia, bringing widespread disadvantage and despair. Right across the country, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can testify to the impacts of colonisation. They continue to experience marked deficits in health, education, employment, justice and child-removal outcomes.  (Full statement included at end)

Mayor Byrne said that Council would continue to hold a moving and respectful citizenship ceremony on 26 January.

“We will incorporate contributions from Aboriginal people on what the day means to them,” he said.

“Our community will not be losing anything, but we will be marking the day in a more mature and thoughtful way.

“We think the focus of 26 January should be Yabun, a large Aboriginal-run festival that’s on the edge of the Inner West Council area. We don’t want to have a festival competing with that event.”

For the past two years, Inner West Council has been working on bringing forward meaningful and detailed polices to empower Aboriginal people in the Inner West. This includes:

  • Adopted Aboriginal names for Inner West Council wards.
  • Became the first government in Australia to fly the South Sea Islander Flag.
  • Conducting a pilot Aboriginal language program in Tempe with the intention of making it available to preschool children across the Inner West.
  • Established a Survival Memorial program to commemorate the survival of Indigenous people in the Sydney area.

Please see the Supporting statement from Reconciliation NSW (PDF 1.2MB) 

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Page last updated: 22 Nov 2019