People from the local indigenous community march along the Esplanade calling for a change of date for Australia Day.
People from the local indigenous community march along the Esplanade calling for a change of date for Australia Day. Alistair Brightman

Mayor, Butchulla elder weigh in on Australia Day debate

BUTCHULLA Elder Frances Gala has never celebrated Australia Day - and as long as it's still on January 26, she never will.

"I don't bother with it," she said. "It doesn't interest me."

For several years, the Fraser Coast's Aboriginal community has marched in protest on January 26 - not Australia Day to them, but Invasion Day.

For Mrs Gala, the date is divisive.

"It's not my celebration," she said.

The date marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet, signifying to many indigenous people the loss of their land and culture. Mrs Gala said a change of date would mean a lot.

"That would be better for us," she said.

Last year in Western Australia, Fremantle's council held its celebrations two days after Australia Day to be more culturally inclusive. Three councils in Melbourne have voted to shift citizenship ceremonies from January 26, resulting in the Federal Government stripping the councils of their right to host citizenship ceremonies.

While there is currently no suggestion that Australia Day events will be moved to a different date on the Fraser Coast, yesterday the region's councillors shared their views on the issue.

Fraser Coast Mayor Chris Loft said the council was not contemplating changing the date of the region's Australia Day events.

"Let's all celebrate the great things about being Australia," he said.

"It's the best country in the world and we live in a great part of it."

But Deputy Mayor George Seymour said he felt there should be a national day that everyone could feel part of.

"National symbols and celebrations should be about building inclusivity and strengthening Australia as a fair and just society," he said.

"To have a date for our national day that so many indigenous Australians feel disrespects their heritage, culture and identity is counter-productive and can easily be fixed."

Councillors Paul Truscott and Darren Everard said no concerns had been mentioned to them by members of the community. Cr Truscott said he believed Australia Day should remain on January 26.

"A number of issues are unnecessarily over-thought thanks to political correctness in overdrive," he said.

"On January 26, I celebrate the fact that I am, you are, we are Australians and am thankful for all the great reasons we have to live in a beautiful and free country."

Cr James Hansen agreed, saying the day allowed all Australians to celebrate their nation. Cr Stuart Taylor said he wasn't concerned about changing the date as much as he was concerned that the national day had become an excuse for getting intoxicated and bad behaviour, while Cr David Lewis said he understood indigenous sensitivities and was happy to look for alternatives.

Cr Daniel Sanderson said the date should remain unchanged, while Cr Anne Maddern said no one had raised concerns with her.

"Given that next Friday is the day scheduled this year, let's all go out and celebrate all the wonderful things about being an Aussie in a great community in the best country in the world," she said.
 



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