CITY of Cockburn’s Australia Day activities remain up in the air after councillors failed to reaffirm a commitment to hold Australia Day events at last night’s council meeting.
A motion put forward by Councillor Chamonix Terblanche for the City to continue its Australia Day events was lost, with councillors voting 5-4 to wait for an Aboriginal Reference Group Consultation Report to be received in November.
Cr Terblanche, who despite moving a recommendation at the March 9 council meeting to receive the report, said following recent speculation the City was looking to change its Australia Day date, it was important to make a decision about the day.
Cr Lee-Anne Smith appeared annoyed councillors were being asked to make a decision, given the report had not yet been received.
“I’m confused why this is coming up now,” she said.
“I’m not going to get caught up in this whole debate right now because it’s not something we should be discussing right now until the report comes back, but the one thing that I will say is that this is not even an Aboriginal issue; this is an issue around engagement, proper consultant and it’s an absolute issue around respect.
“I sit on many reference groups including the disability reference group, the bushfire reference group and I can tell you now those people would not be very happy if we were making recommendations a month before their reports came back to us.”
She added it went against everything the March recommendation stood for and described it as disrespectful and did not include proper consultation or engagement.
Cr Terblanche encouraged councillors to support Australia Day events and said local government should focus on local issues.
“What is next?” she asked.
“Will we be debating euthanasia and changing the Australian taxation system?
“Until such time that the Federal Government decides to change the date, we should continue to focus on local issues such as providing better road networks and building much needed infrastructure,” she said.
“If the Federals change the date, then we go along with that but in the meantime let us celebrate the day of inclusivity, recognising the importance of our indigenous people to our land by performing activities that resonate with them on the day and get on with the job of running local government.”
Cr Steven Pratt said the motion pre-empted the report that was yet to come to council, while Cr Steven Portelli said it was time to get things over and done with and that council had wasted too much time on the issue.
Community Development manager Gail Bowman said the City still planned to hold its Australia Day breakfast and Citizenship ceremony but was collating consultation findings about the nature and type of cultural activities that may be held at both events.
“The consultation findings from the recent survey about cultural activities will be discussed with the Aboriginal Reference Group at its next meeting and then depending on the outcome, the City will arrange cultural activities to be held at the Australia Day Citizenship ceremony and the Australia Day Breakfast in line with the recommendations from the Reference Group and the broader Aboriginal Community consultation findings,” she said.
She added further consultation would be had with the Aboriginal Reference Group in developing a Draft Reconciliation Plan, which would include discussion about Australia Day cultural activities.