Laura Hinschen and Adam Roff are gearing up for the Australia Day celebrations. ​

Evelyn Leckie

THIS year’s Australia Day celebrations by the City of Whittlesea may mark a pivotal moment in council history, as Indigenous perspectives will be acknowledged during Sunday’s event.

A minute’s silence at the council-run event will acknowledge past injustices in Australian history.

In December, council voted to host a culturally-appropriate mourning service on the morning of January 26 to formally acknowledge the pain and suffering the day brings for Aboriginal people.

Whittlesea Reconciliation Group co-chair Sarah Gafforini said council’s decision in December was the first small, but important change to the way Australia Day was celebrated.

Ms Gafforini added the group would’ve liked to see more promotion of the minute’s silence on council’s events page.

“They should have been proud of their decision to finally make changes. It should be celebrated, not hidden. Councillors tell us they are proud of their involvement in reconciliation – so prove it,” Ms Gafforini said.

In 2017, Whittlesea Reconciliation Group requested council consider ceasing Australia Day celebrations on January 26. Council did not accept the request.

Cr Norm Kelly said at council’s last meeting that although he knew people weren’t proud of what happend in 1788 – he did not think cancelling Australia Day was the right way to go.

“My recollection is celebrating what’s good about Australia – at the end of the day, I never hear people say ‘let’s celebrate because Aboriginal people were invaded today’,” he said.

Mayor Emilia Sterjova added the Federal Government could strip council of their right to host citizenship ceremonies if they changed the date.

“Australia Day does signify the beginning of genocide of Aboriginal Australians,” Cr Sterjova said.

“Unfortunately we’re in a difficult situation because we also want to celebrate the wonderful cultural diversity that Australia has.

“That in turn doesn’t allow migrants and refugees, who have every right to call City of Whittlesea their home, a way to enter into our municipality.”

Australia Day celebrations will kick off in the City of Whittlesea on Sunday at 6pm with music, kids’ activities, face painting and food.

There will be live music by Big City Beat and a musical performance by Rua. Recipients of the City of Whittlesea Australia Day Awards will also be announced.

City of Whittlesea Acting director of community services Neville Kurth said council would continue to work with the community to review the Australia Day activities for 2021.

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