Meander Valley Council refused to support an Australia Day date change

The Meander Valley Council has added to the discourse surrounding changing the date of Australia Day.

A spirited discussion between councillors at Tuesday’s meeting was held after a notice of motion was put forward by Cr Andrew Connor.

He called on the council to support a motion by the City of Hobart to be considered at the Local Government Association of Tasmania annual general meeting.

Hobart is seeking support from all Tasmanian councils ahead of lobbying the federal government to change the date of Australia Day from January, 26.

“Us as representatives of our community, and the closets level to it, have a role to play in communicating what our residents want,” Cr Connor said.

“Councils also play a large part in community events on Australia Day, the day is important to many in our community but also contentious for indigenous and non-indigenous people as the day is also viewed as invasion day.”

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He said the council held this year’s Australia Day event on January 25 and no issues were raised by the community.

“I hope we can express the views of our community to LGAT, to other councils … this is something serious and this is where it needs to start,” Cr Connor said.

He said the date of January 26 was only named Australia Day in 1935 and the public holiday marking the day had only been in consistent practice since 1994. 

Cr Bob Richardson spoke of the nuclear tests on aboriginal land in central Australia in the 1950s. 

He said it was “time Australia grew up”.

“There are alternative dates I am certain of it but that is for discussion further on and we need to recognise the need to discuss the issue so that we have full inclusiveness of all Australian people,” Cr Richardson said.

“There was regular conflict with the English and aboriginals ... not many generations back.

“I am not too pleased about it and I am not proud of it, but it happened and it’s time this nation recognised that it is not fitting. It is called invasion day.”

The motion failed to gather enough votes.

Cr Rodney Synfield then moved a second motion that the council supports the discussion by the community at large around the appropriate date for Australia day.

In response to criticism around the table that the motion did not have enough substance Cr Ian Mackenzie suggested May 8.

“As it [sounds like] mate, maate, maaate. It couldn’t get any more Australian,” he said.

The foreshadowed motion still did not get enough votes.

Each council in Tasmania will be asked to vote on the matter at the LGAT general meeting on July 26.