First Sydney council drops Australia Day

Inner West Council mayor Darcy Byrne says ditching traditional Australia Day celebrations is right.
Inner West Council mayor Darcy Byrne says ditching traditional Australia Day celebrations is right.

An inner city council has become the first in Sydney to drop Australia Day celebrations, with its mayor hailing the move as "the right thing to do".

Inner West Council mayor Darcy Byrne said councillors supported a proposal to ditch the celebratory element of January 26, instead encouraging residents to attend the Aboriginal Yabun festival held that day.

"It's a small but respectful act of recognition. The right thing to do," he wrote on Facebook after Tuesday night's vote.

Mr Byrne said many in Sydney's inner west were starting to feel differently about Australia Day.

"Attitudes towards 26 January are changing in the community," Mr Byrne said in a statement on Wednesday.

"For Aboriginal people, the date represents the beginning of colonisation, dispossession, the removal of children and deliberate destruction of language and culture.

"A growing number of Australians want that to be respectfully acknowledged."

The council was choosing to "change the nature of the day to one of commemoration not celebration", he said.

A citizenship ceremony will still be held on January 26, while the citizen of the year awards and a summer festival will be held on different dates.

In January, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was proud of celebrating Australia Day on January 26 and did not want the date changed.

"I'm proud of Australia Day, I'm proud of celebrating it on January 26 with all of our citizens together," she said at the time.

"I feel that that is the day that all Australians know."

Reconciliation NSW has expressed support for the Inner West Council's proposal.

In 2018 a Greens motion calling on the same council to ditch its Australia Day event was voted down by a united front of Labor and Liberal councillors.

Independent councillor Pauline Lockie, who supported the changes, said the issue had been "caught up in the politics of how far that change should go".

"All of us - Labor, Greens and progressive independents - should have been able to work together collaboratively to come to the resolution many in our community have wanted us to agree on some time ago," Ms Lockie posted on Facebook on Wednesday morning.

"But at least we got it done last night."

Australian Associated Press