The ACT Greens have promised to remove all government funding from Australia Day if it were to win this year’s election.
Instead, it would see the money diverted to Reconciliation Day, which already receives about $170,000.
Party leader Shane Rattenbury said his party felt 26 January was not a day of celebration so public money would be better spent elsewhere.
“Along with many Canberrans, the Greens acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceded,” he said.
“January 26 is not an easy date to celebrate when you accept the truth of the deep and ongoing harms colonisation has inflicted on First Nations people.
He pointed out that ACT Government spending on Australia Day events was already declining and there have been no fireworks since 2020.
Marketing and event management services for the day in 2022 were more than $100,000, which shrank to $25,000 for both 2023 and 2024 events.
For 2024, the ACT Government is hosting a barbeque with entertainment at Regatta Point, and the National Capital Authority (a Federal body) is hosting a drone show over Lake Burley Griffin.
The ACT Greens have encouraged Canberrans to instead support the Aboriginal Tent Embassy at their Sovereignty Day march from 9:30 am at Garema Place.
Mr Rattenbury argued that moving that event to Reconciliation Day would also be more suitable.
“It gets dark much earlier in May, so in addition to being more respectful, moving the drone show to Reconciliation Day would enable more families to attend and enjoy the show on a day that unites us as a community,” he said.
“While we acknowledge that there is still a long journey ahead towards true reconciliation, we believe the ACT’s Reconciliation Day would be a much more appropriate date for local celebrations.”
The ACT Greens also support changing the date, but given that it’s a national decision, they have put this forward as an alternative in the meantime.
“Any new national day of celebration should be decided with First Nations peoples – and could mark an important milestone in reconciliation and healing, such as the day that a Treaty is forged,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“We’re not proposing we dispose of the public holiday, but should we have that public holiday on a different day so we can mark our nation in a different way?”
Chief Minister Andrew Barr has responded to the Greens’ call, stating that while he respected the Australia Day public holiday “sparks the full range of community views”, 26 January was still a national public holiday.
“A public event for Canberrans wishing to come together on the day is appropriate,” he said.
“This debate will likely continue every year until a consensus can be reached on an alternate date for a national public holiday. Possible options to consider include 1 January (the date the Australian Federation was established) or the date Australia becomes a republic (if that happens at some point in the future).
“We have a national day and the ACT Government will partner with the National Capital Authority and the Australia Day Council to run an event on that day.”
The Commonwealth Government and Australia Day Council are the primary sources of funds for 26 January events, with the ACT Government only focusing on daytime events.
“Our bigger focus is our own day, Canberra Day, and of course we also have Reconciliation Day,” Mr Barr said.
“So I think it’s possible to have community events on all three [public holidays], and that’s what we do.”
Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.