Perth’s biggest council content to sit out Australia Day date debate

THE Mayor of Perth’s largest council does not believe local government is the appropriate level to unite communities about the date to celebrate Australia Day.

Stirling Mayor Mark Irwin acknowledged that feedback received from the Aboriginal community is divided but does not believe that it a matter for local government to determine.

He was responding to claims made earlier this week by Federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale, who wants to use his party’s influence in local governments around the country to push the Greens agenda for a change of date.

“The City will continue to hold our Australia Day awards followed by a citizenship ceremony and will to use this day to celebrate our great country, our inclusiveness and our diversity,” Cr Irwin said.

“The City of Stirling will continue to focus on fostering reconciliation, understanding and respect from all parties.”

Senator Di Natale had said the Greens would use its 100 members in councils nationally to push moving Australia Day, which has been changed at three Melbourne councils, following Fremantle Council’s lead last year.

Mundaring Shire President Cr John Daw also hit out about the perceived control that political parties might have over councils.

“One of the great things about local governments is their independence,” he said.

“Mundaring Council is first and foremost concerned with our community’s interests and issues at the local level.

“Council is not affiliated with any political party, including the Greens, and is not politically obliged in its decision making, and therefore carries no party political baggage.”

Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels described party politics as prevalent in the eastern states but of minor influence in WA.

“This is very much the case at the City of Rockingham where decisions are based upon the best interests of the community, not broader party political doctrine,” he said.

Other Perth mayors remained largely unmoved by the Federal Greens leader’s endeavours to influence councils over the Australia Day matter.

Two councillors at the City of Vincent are members of the Greens Party – Cr Dan Loden and Cr Jonathan Hallett – but Mayor Emma Cole said any significant decisions would be made by the entire nine-member council. She said they have not had to debate the date Australia Day celebrations because the only event the council holds on January 26 is a citizenship ceremony.

The City of Wanneroo holds Australia’s largest citizenship ceremony on January 26, with over 500 people in line to become Australians next Friday.

Deputy Mayor Nat Sangalli said to date the council had not received any requests to consider changing the date for celebrating Australia Day, and had no alliance to any political parties.

Like Wanneroo, the Shire of Murray has had no requests for a date change and therefore no discussion about it.

Subiaco Mayor Penny Taylor said councillors listen to ideas from all advocates, but their ultimate focus remained on representing local residents and ratepayers.

Other councils surveyed, including Nedlands, Victoria Park and Joondalup, simply said they were satisfied with their current Australia Day arrangements.