Cockburn council to consult with residents on moving Australia Day celebrations

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE City of Cockburn will not take a position on changing the date of future Australia Day celebrations such as the popular Coogee Beach Festival until the wider community has been consulted.

The council made the call after adopting its third Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) at tonight’s council meeting.

The new plan, put to councillors tonight, contained proposals which would see the City refer a change in the day of its Coogee Beach Festival Event to a day other than the January 26 to the Community Events Committee.

The plan also included a proposal to write to the Federal Government providing the City’s Aboriginal community consultation findings, which support a change to the date of national Australia Day celebrations.

At tonight’s council meeting Corina Abraham, a Wadjak Noongar woman and Cockburn resident, asked for the agenda item to be brought forward during public question time.

Fellow resident Lara Kirkwood asked council why residents had not been polled on the proposed change of date for the Australia Day celebrations.

Ms Kirkwood also questioned whether Mayor Logan Howlett would abstain from voting, given he had previously declared he would not vote to change the date.

Following public question time, council suspended standing orders to bring the agenda item forward.

Deputy Mayor Lee-Anne Smith put forward an alternate motion that council adopt the RAP subject to a number of conditions.

One of those conditions stated that the City would not hold a position or enter into a discussion about changing the date of Australia Day celebrations until wider consultation had been carried out.

Cr Smith said she believed the City’s consultation on this issue was flawed and that national polling on the issue had given conflicting results when it came to public opinion.

“Before we can settle on the way forward there is so much more that needs to be done,” she said.

Cr Smith quoted recently deceased Councillor Steve Portelli in her speech, reading from an email he had sent her about the issue.

Cr Michael Separovich questioned whether the Coogee Beach Festival had always been held on Australia Day.

City of Cockburn governance and community services director Don Green said the festival used to be held in March or April.

The debate continued for 45 minutes, before the council voted to adopt Cr Smith’s alternate motion.

Crs Chontelle Sands and Carol Reeve-Fowkes were not present at the meeting, and Cr Kevin Allen was the only one to vote against the alternate motion.

Cr Smith said it was a shame the Australia Day items had overshadowed the RAP document.

Following the expiration of the City’s RAP 2013-2016, it completed a draft RAP for 2018-2021, which included undertaking extensive consultation with the City’s Aboriginal Reference Group and Aboriginal Community consultation process regarding the nature and type of cultural activities for future Australia Day events.

According to the City report considered by councillors tonight, it was committed to developing a third RAP to turn good intentions into measurable actions that helped Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people achieve equality in all aspects of life – a goal which benefitted all Australians.

Two years ago, the City of Fremantle canned its Australia Day firecracker night – opting instead to celebrate a “One Day in Fremantle” event on January 28.

Last year, national youth radio station Triple J made the decision to move its Hottest 100 countdown from Australia Day.

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