Councillors vote in favour of recommendation to no longer formally support celebrations held on January 26

22 May 2023
Letter to the editor | Mayor Cr Laura Binks | Issued June 5, 2023

I write today to correct several inaccuracies in a letter to the editor in last week’s paper about Council’s decision on January 26.

I acknowledge all those who have showed their passion for Australia Day celebrations and ask those who shares this view to join their local Australia Day Committee.

Strathbogie Shire Council’s decision was not to change the date or move Australia Day. It is correct that this is a Federal Government decision.

Our decision was to stop Council’s formal role on this day. Councillors will still be able to attend if they choose, it just means Council will not have a formal role.

It also provides an opportunity for local Australia Day Committees, who can apply to the National Australia Day Council for funding to run events and awards.

In our community we have already seen one committee receive $20,000 in funding by taking up this option – a significant boost in financial assistance.

Council plans to work with our Community Panel to determine the best way to celebrate our volunteers and we will report back when this work is complete.

Finally, if Council’s focus should be on roads, rates and rubbish, as so many in our community keep telling us. Then it could be argued our decision to have no formal role in events on January 26 is doing just this.

Media release | Issued May 22, 2023

Strathbogie Shire Council will no longer formally support celebrations on January 26, in recognition of First Nations People.

Council endorsed the recommendation at last night’s Council Meeting. The decision means Council will not have a formal involvement in Australia Day activities from January 26, 2024.

“We recognise this is a day that causes great pain to First Nations people,” Cr Binks said.

“We are a Council that supports inclusion and there is a portion of our community whose experiences of January 26 are a reminder of the dispossession and ongoing effects and impacts of colonisation.

“It is simply not okay to turn a blind eye to this pain and suffering.”

Last night’s recommendation also empowered officers to work with the Share Strathbogie Community Panel to determine the best way to celebrate volunteers in our community.

“It is important to note this option does not exclude Australia Day Committees from continuing to host and deliver township celebrations including award celebrations on January 26 or applying for funding directly to the National Australia Day Council,” Strathbogie Shire Mayor Cr Laura Binks said.

“We want to ensure our volunteers – the lifeblood of our communities – are celebrated in a way and at a time that’s inclusive for all our community.”

The recommendation came after an October 2021 Council Meeting when Cr Sally Hayes-Burke put forward a recommendation seeking a report from officers regarding Council’s role in January 26 activities in recognition of First Nations people.

This report was considered at the 17 May 2022 Council meeting, authorising broader consultation on two options with the community and relevant stakeholders including local Australia Day Committees and First Nations representatives.

Cr Binks said Council received a formal Statement from Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLaWC) regarding January 26.

“This Statement received in January 2023 was authorised through the direction of the Taungurung people and articulated an agreed position from TLaWC to not to participate in any activities associated with January 26.

“The statement also requested the TLaWC’s partners and stakeholders respect their position.’’

Cr Binks explained the statement was particularly powerful due to Council’s existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the TLaWC which was signed on October 2021.

“The MoU reflects the need to commit to ensure the consideration of local Taungurung issues as part of any review process for Council programs and services,” Cr Binks said.

“In line with Council’s MoU with the TLaWC and its January 26 Statement, it was recommended that Council no longer formally supports celebrations on January 26, from 2024.”

Officers have proposed moving the “Australia Day Awards” to National Volunteer Week, by introducing a shire wide Strathbogie Rocks Annual Community Awards Program/event (an inclusive awards program) recognising the outstanding community contribution of people within our Shire.

“However, the Council decision empowers Officers to work with the Share Strathbogie Community Panel to determine the best way to celebrate volunteers, so our community can be assured any changes will be driven by local people,” Cr Binks said.

“We will report back when this work is finished.”

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