Australia Day is intended as a day to unite the nation but, for many in the Indigenous community, it is a day of protest and mourning.
A growing number of councils across the country are beginning to dump their planned Australia Day celebrations in sympathy with those emotions.
Two Melbourne councils, Darebin and Yarra, have voted to drop their celebrations on January 26.
Related’Stimulate a discussion’
Hobart City Council says it is considering the move, and Fremantle Council in Western Australia already is delaying its celebrations.
The co-chairman of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Rod Little, says he and the Congress admire the councils for what they have done.
“The Congress has commended those councils, the Fremantle City Council and others. And I think it’s brave of those councils to stimulate a discussion that needs to be had, because we are an evolving society,” said Mr Little.
In Melbourne, long-time Indigenous activist Robbie Thorpe says simply changing the date will not resolve tensions, but having Australia Day on January 26 is – he believes – inappropriate.
“It’s offensive and insulting and denies us our humanity, our human rights, our dignity. You know, we’ve seen our country destroyed in a very short space of time,” said Mr Thorpe.
But there are others with a different view.
Former president of the Darug Tribal Aboriginal Corporation in western Sydney, Gordon Workman, says changing the date for Australia Day celebrations will only create more division in the country.
“A push to change Australia Day is pushing a wedge between white and Indigenous Aborigines of this country. That’s all it is, nothing more, nothing else,” said Mr Workman.
“I mean, the past is the past here. Nobody can go back and change it. But we can change what’s coming, and that’s what we should be focusing on, not a day.”
In response to the moves to shift Australia Day celebrations, the Federal Government has stripped two councils of the power to hold citizenship ceremonies.