THE Prime Minister’s move to force councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day is unlikely to change the way the day is celebrated in northern Tasmania, including in councils that do not have events on January 26.
Flinders Island Council has not held Australia Day events since 2013, preferring to instead celebrate its Furneaux Islands Festival the weekend before as an all-inclusive event for residents.
The council held a citizenship ceremony in December for one resident, but there would not be any in January given the island’s population was 920 and it was relatively rare for a resident to gain Australian citizenship.
Mayor Annie Revie said they allowed residents to celebrate January 26 “as they wish” and to “reflect on what it means to be Australian”, and if someone wanted to have their citizenship ceremony on the date then “it would be considered”.
“People should be offered the days that they want it to be on,” she said.
“The reason behind making the Furneaux Festival the centre of that time of year is that it offers something positive – it is a positive way of celebrating all we have in Australia, and that people from all cultures call Australia home.
“Our Indigenous population is 17 per cent and we don’t want to offend that population.
“This policy from the Prime Minister may very well be changed by next year, but we will need to address that when it comes."
Other northern Tasmanian councils also have policies of holding ceremonies away from January 26, including Meander Valley.
The council will hold its Australia Day events at the Country Club Tasmania on January 25 with a citizenship ceremony for several people.
Mayor Wayne Johnston said the council would meet on Tuesday night to discuss possible implications of the Prime Minister’s announcement, but it was too late to change their 2019 plans.
“The Red Hot Summer Tour is at the Country Club on Australia Day so the venue has already been booked for that,” he said.
“We’ll see how the next election comes and goes.”
The policy from Prime Minister Scott Morrison includes a “dress code” for citizenship ceremonies, but specific details are yet to be announced.
Mr Morrison also sought to force councils to hold citizenship ceremonies on September 17, or Australian Citizenship Day.
Exemptions were likely for regional councils with smaller populations.