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Launceston City Council Changes Date Of Australia Day Celebrations

Australia Day celebrations in the Tasmanian city of Launceston will no longer be held on January 26, after council voted to move activities to a less contentious day.

On Thursday, the Launceston City Council became the state's second municipality to make the change out of respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The city's citizenship ceremonies, which are traditionally held on Australia Day around the country, and community recognition awards ceremonies will now be held on January 25.

With the exception of one councillor who was absent, Thursday's vote was unanimous, a council spokesperson told 10 daily.

Photo: Getty

Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten said the events traditionally held on Australia Day should unite us.

"There are so many worthy things to celebrate about Australia, its people and cultures," van Zetten said.

"However, it's clear that there has been a shift in peoples' views and that this date is a controversial one for many who feel they cannot celebrate these occasions."

The initial motion was brought forward in January by Greens councillor Tim Walker, who hopes the decision will bring "a new dawn in the relationship between Launceston and the Tasmanian Aboriginal community".

"There are many reasons I am proud to be an Australian," Walker wrote in an article for The Examiner.

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"However, the lack of any meaningful dialogue with the indigenous communities of this wide brown land is not one of those."

"Until respectful talk that accepts truth-telling, recognises an indigenous voice of and creates a treaty, as a nation we have nothing to celebrate.

Protestors marching during a protest by Aboriginal rights activist on Australia Day in Melbourne, 2018. Photo: Getty

"Marking January 26 as our national day will never create the inclusive society that the concept of Australia Day is meant to encompass."

Launceston follows the Flinders Island Council, who moved its celebrations in 2013.

The date of Australia Day has become a divisive issue across the country, as Indigenous communities call for our national day to be held on less disrespectful date.

Often referred to as 'Invasion Day', January 26 marks the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the eastern half of what would become Australia.

In January, the federal government introduced changes to the code which governs how citizenship ceremonies are conducted.

Under the changes – which are yet to go to parliament – councils will be forced to hold the ceremonies on January 26.

Minister for Immigration David Coleman said the new code will provide guidance to councils hosting citizenship ceremonies, and "better reflect the expectations of the Australian community".

“New citizens should be given the opportunity to become an Australian on our national day,” Coleman said earlier this year.

The move came after a number of councils, including Byron Shire in NSW's north, began making moves to host celebrations on other dates.

Melbourne's Yarra and Darabin councils are among several across the country to be stripped of their power to hold citizenship ceremonies, after voting to distance themselves from Australia Day.

Byron Shire Council backflipped on its decision amid the scrutiny, and continues to hold citizenship ceremonies on the 26th.

Mayor van Zetten said the government's mandate will impact Launceston's plans.

"If the Federal Government mandates that Councils must hold their citizenship ceremonies on January 26, today's motion makes clear that the City of Launceston will follow that ruling," he said.

"However, given the choice, we believe it's appropriate not to host these events on January 26.

"Today's decision by the Councillors is about acknowledging what happened more than 230 years ago and choosing to be a more inclusive society that wants to have a more meaningful relationship with every member of its community."