MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire’s Cr Kerri McCafferty says she won’t be celebrating Australia Day on Tuesday 26 January because she does not see it as a day of national celebration.
“Simply put, it’s not the date to celebrate. The day, yes, but not the date,” the Seawinds Ward councillor said.
Cr McCafferty, one of eight new councillors elected in November, said the date was “not inclusive and was disrespectful to Indigenous Australians”.
“I have made my decision after listening to them, learning the true history of this country from them and respecting their wishes,” she said.
The shire has drastically cut back on its usual Australia Day celebrations because of COVID-19 restrictions, including the parade down main Street, Mornington which was followed at night by fireworks over the harbour.
New councillors make up a majority in council, which means that they could permanently overturn the shire’s approach to Australia Day in much the same way that they backed Cr Anthony Marsh’s move to drop the council prayer (“God purged from council prayer” The News 14/12/20).
Cr McCafferty said that in 1994 when it was decided that 26 January should be an Australia Day public holiday, she was nine years old.
“I must admit that I find this perception of Australia Day being a long-standing national tradition rather odd when it hasn’t even been around beyond my 36 years,” she said.
“In actual fact, the date, name and meaning of the day has been changed many times, with the original Australia Day being held on the 30 July 1915 to raise funds for war efforts, rather than being a day of national unity and a celebration of our unique Australian lifestyle and values that it is perceived to be.”
Cr McCafferty says she is more concerned about respecting the wishes of First Nations people who “have requested the date of Australia Day be changed to a more appropriate date for all Australians”.
“Therefore, in the spirit of true reconciliation, I will not be attending any Australia Day events on January 26 – official or otherwise,” she said.
“This day represents loss and mourning for Indigenous people, and is viewed broadly by the Indigenous community as being a celebration of the coming of one race, at the expense of another.
“The resulting dispossession saw a loss of sovereign rights to their land, loss of family and loss of right to practice [their] culture and I have no desire to participate in the celebration of those things.
“I understand that it may be viewed as a multicultural day by some, given that it is the date chosen to welcome our new Australians through our citizenship awards ceremonies, and, indeed, this may be the case for many other cultures within our community.
“However, it fails to recognise that our First Nations people have specifically asked us to stop celebrating the date that saw the beginning of their cultural genocide.
“I would love to participate in citizenship ceremonies and local awards, but I will do so when the date has been changed to respect all cultures, especially the oldest living culture in the world.”