When the City of Fremantle decided to create a more culturally inclusive community celebration by moving Australia Day to 28 January, it had no idea it would be so divisive.
Last month, the City of Fremantle announced that, after consultation with Aboriginal elders and the wider community, it would hold a “culturally-inclusive alternative event” on 28 January to replace traditional Australia Day celebrations.
Little did the council know it would spark a national controversy. Or did it?
Fremantle mayor Dr Brad Pettitt made the decision after consulting with Aboriginal elders in the area who made it “loud and clear” that Australia Day was not one to celebrate.
“It’s a clarification of history, because celebrating the day the first gunshots ploughed our blood into the earth is horrific for Aboriginal people,” said respected Fremantle Elder Robert Eggington.
Since the uproar, the Federal Government has attempted to deter the City from moving its celebrations to an alternative day, saying it will revoke the council’s power to confer citizenship because it would send an anti-Australia Day message.
“Citizenship has got to be apolitical, non-commercial, bipartisan and secular,” said the Assistant Minister for Immigration Alex Hawke. “Having your citizenship conferred to you on Australia Day is very special. The actions of Freo Council will deny that very special occasion to our new citizens, it’s a disgrace.”
Fremantle councillor, Dave Hume – the only councillor who voted against the move in the first place – said that if the Government intervened, it would be “ludicrous” and “over the top” and another attempt to distract the public from “their great big cock-up of everything else”.
“I think it’s over the top and I think it’s actually sad that something that was designed to actually be an inclusive event has proven to be so divisive,” said Mr Hume. “I think if everyone stood back and took a deep breath, they would realise that things weren’t actually going to collapse and the roof wasn’t going to cave in.”
When Dr Pettitt first announced the ‘One Day’ celebrations, he acknowledged that Australia Day “wasn’t a day of celebration for everybody and it was an opportunity for us to come up with a different format on a different day that could be truly inclusive”.
“We were never trying to say to people they couldn’t do anything or shouldn’t do anything on Australia Day,” he said. “That’s for other people to judge. We’re simply offering what I think is a really good alternative.”
Should we #ChangeTheDate? What’s your opinion about this? Is this political correctness gone too far or a suitable “culturally-inclusive alternative”?