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25 January 2024 Posted by 


Amid mixed approaches from NSW councils
THE state’s largest council, Blacktown, including neighbor Hawkesbury Council, has put a stay on January 26 as their traditional celebration of Australia Day amid calls to change the date with a multitude of proposals.
Labor Mayor Tony Bleasdale said Blacktown City Council was “very mindful” of the debates filtering within the locality of more than 415,000 residents, mostly migrants from more than 180 countries, following cancellation by at least 80 other councils.
At least 18 of the 80 councils cancelling their celebrations are NSW based councils, led by Sydney City Council in the north and the Blue Mountains Council in the outer west.
January 26 began as a nationwide public holiday in 1994 during the time of Labor prime minister Paul Keating.
Prior to 1994, Australia Day every January 26 is celebrated by councils in the states and territories since 1935, the Canberra-based Australia Day Council said on its website.
In Australia’s documented history held by the National Library, January 26 is marked as the day the British flag was hoisted at Sydney Cove following the arrival of the First Fleet commandeered by Captain Arthur Phillip at Botany Bay on January 18, 1788.
Councils campaigning to change the date believe January 26 should be known as ‘Invasion Day’ because it signified the start of the Indigenous peoples’ dispossession of their land since Britain’s First Fleet of mostly convicted prisoners were exiled and settled in Australia.
“Blacktown City Council strongly believes that Australia Day [on January 26] is a day of both celebration and reflection by all Australians,” Clr Bleasdale said.
“We believe it is a day when we welcome our most recent arrivals as they swear their allegiance to Australia and at the same time acknowledge our First Nations peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land.
“I am incredibly proud that Blacktown City is home to the largest urban population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in NSW.
“I am also proud that our population of more than 415,000 people represent more than 180 countries and languages.
“While Council is very mindful of the debate both within our city and in the broader community as to the date and significance of Australia Day.
“We will celebrate Australia Day and our new Australian citizens on this date and note that 26th January is still officially gazetted as Australia Day.”
However, as the debate to change the date heats up, Clr Bleasdale said Council will hear feedback and representations from residents on the issue.
The traditional citizenship ceremony welcoming the city’s new residents from around the world will be held at the Council’s Bowman Hall.
Hawkesbury’s Liberal mayor Sarah McMahon said the council is staging the community event at Phillip Park along the Hawkesbury River, named after the NSW colony’s first governor Captain Phillip, who commandeered the First Fleet landing in 1788, because “there is widespread support” and it was “sentiment of the day” to continue celebrating Australia Day on January 26.
Clr McMahon said it was “disappointing” that some councils cancelled their celebrations when it would have been a day “to unite as one, acknowledging our history and seeing it as an opportunity for a bright and connected future.”
“We should be celebrating that despite some challenging times, we do live in the best country in the entire world,” Clr McMahon said.
“Counting our blessings for the rights and freedoms that we have as a democratic nation, and being thankful that we can call ourselves Australians, should continue to be our focus.”
The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) president Barry Calvert, the Labor deputy mayor of Hawkesbury Council, said their member councils has expressed “a variety of positions” on the debate.
WSROC member councils are Blacktown, Cumberland, Hawkesbury, Lithgow, Liverpool and Blue Mountains representing more than two million residents have yet to decide on what their collective stance would be on Australia Day, Clr Calvert said.


Michael Walls
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