By Alesha Capone
Wyndham council will host an annual Australia Day events program, including a breakfast or major civic event, in future years.
A majority of councillors supported the idea, put forward by Cr Josh Gilligan at last week’s council meeting.
Cr Gilligan hopes the program will include Australia Day awards, recognising the Wyndham Citizen of the Year and Young Citizen of the Year.
In previous years, the council has announced its citizen awards during August.
In a written submission to the council, Cr Gilligan said that “holding no significant Australia Day program sends the wrong message in a community that speaks so loudly and proudly of migration and multiculturalism and what it means to live in this country”.
At the meeting last Tuesday, he said councils have a responsibility to create unity and pride in their municipalities.
“Other western suburbs councils have breakfasts and major civic events (on Australia Day), I think we need to do so too,” he said.
Cr Mia Shaw said she supported Cr Gilligan’s idea, but that it was important to note the council was not debating the matter of whether to change the date of Australia Day from January 26 or not.
Cr Marcel Mahfoud also gave Cr Gilligan’s motion a thumbs-up. He said that the council might need to conduct community consultation on what future local Australia Day celebrations could include.
However, Cr Jennie Barrera said she could not support the motion as Wyndham was home to a large Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
“January 26 means different things to different people and it often provokes strong opinions,” she said.
“For some in our community, it’s a very painful day.”
Cr Barrera said that the council’s Reconciliation Action Plan was due to be updated later this year, and that she would like to see the conversation around Australia Day evolve alongside the plan.
She said she believed it would be “premature” to commit to Cr Gilligan’s motion before the Reconciliation Action Plan was reviewed.