City of Yarra votes to change way it marks January 26

Reconciliation Victoria commends and strongly supports the City of Yarra in their decision and courageous leadership related to its January 26 recommendations, a result of engaging with the local Aboriginal community. 

Yarra Council last night voted unanimously to change the way it marks January 26, from 2018 onwards. 

 Yarra Mayor, Cr Amanda Stone said the changes have been informed by in-depth conversations with the local Aboriginal community, as well as feedback from the broader Yarra community.

“The overwhelming sentiment from our Aboriginal community is that January 26 is a date of sadness, trauma and distress. They have told us that this is not a day of celebration, but a day of mourning,” said Cr Stone.

“We also commissioned an independent survey of nearly 300 non-Indigenous people in Yarra, which showed strong support for change. 78.6% of broader community respondents supported the idea of Council holding an event to acknowledge Aboriginal experiences of January 26.

“In recognition of our Aboriginal community’s experiences, we will hold a small, culturally-sensitive event acknowledging the loss of culture, language and identity felt by the community on January 26.

“We will also be undertaking community education to help people better understand the Aboriginal community’s experiences of this date,” she said.

“In the last 12 months there has been a groundswell of community support for change from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people across the country. The community is looking for leadership on this issue.

“People can still have their barbeques and parties on the January 26 public holiday, but I hope our stance encourages people to stop and think about what this date really means in the history of our nation.

“A celebration of national identity should be inclusive of all Australians. 26 January is not an appropriate date because it marks the beginning of British colonisation and the loss of culture, language and land for Australia’s First Peoples,” said Cr Stone.

In addition, Council will no longer hold a citizenship ceremony on January 26. However, it will continue to hold the bimonthly ceremonies on other days throughout the year. 

Read the Council's Resolution here

To support Yarra's stance you can vote in this online poll in The Age today.


Media Reports

More councils eye changing the date of Australia Day after Yarra Council push
Tom Cowie, 17 August, The Age

Melbourne's Yarra Council drops Australia Day ceremonies despite warning from Turnbull government
The Age

'It must change': Karl Stefanovic's Australia Day change of heart
The Age

Yarra council stripped of citizenship power after canceling Australia Day celebrations
The Age

Malcolm Turnbull Says Changing The Date Of Australia Day Is Out Of Step With Australian Values 
Amy McQuire, Buzzfeed

Know the facts about Jan 26, says Wurundjeri Elder
Laura Morelli, NITV

City of Yarra council's 'attack on Australia Day' angers Malcolm Turnbull
Elias Clure, ABC News


Darebin, Hepburn, Hobart and Fremantle councils are also considering their stance on January 26 celebrations.  Read more here

Reconciliation Victorias supports a continuing national conversation about shifting our national day from January 26.  Such a conversation would help us reflect on who are as a nation, what we stand for, and what date in our history best reflects those values and attributes. Check out which showcases Victorian local government good practice in Aboriginal engagement and reconciliation.

Read Reconciliation Victoria's Celebrating Australia Day 2017 Reflection Piece from earlier this year.