Culture

Fremantle Will Celebrate Australia Day On January 28 Out Of Respect For Indigenous People

The council has called it "a culturally-inclusive alternative to traditional Australia Day celebrations."

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Fremantle council has decided to push back next year’s Australia Day celebrations out of respect for indigenous people whose ancestors were dispossessed by European settlement. The city will instead host musical performances and citizenship ceremonies on January 28, two days after the rest of the country, in a new event dubbed One Day in Fremantle.

An official statement described the event as “a culturally-inclusive alternative to traditional Australia Day celebrations,” and “an opportunity for all Australians to come together and celebrate the multicultural diversity of our country.”

“All of our ancestors and new immigrants have played a part in shaping Australia as it is today and we value every contribution, which includes acknowledging that 26 January may not have the same implication for all Australians,” it said.

Speaking to The West Australian, Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said the council had heard “loud and clear” from indigenous elders who felt it was inappropriate to celebrate on a day viewed by many Indigenous Australians as a day of mourning. “For us as a city, we thought it was time to acknowledge it wasn’t a day of celebration for everybody and it was an opportunity for us to come up with a different format on a different day that could be truly inclusive,” Pettitt said.

Pettitt stressed that the council was not opposed to people celebrating on January 26. “We were never trying to say to people they couldn’t do anything or shouldn’t do anything on Australia Day,” he told the paper. “We’re simply offering what I think is a really good alternative.”

In August, Fremantle council voted 10-1 to cancel its Australia Day fireworks, sparking renewed debate about the date of Australia’s national holiday. A number of Fremantle business-owners have since pledged to privately fund a January 26 fireworks display themselves.