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Second Melbourne Council Votes To Cancel Australia Day Ceremonies

The City of Darebin Council has joined the Yarra City Council.

21/08/2017 10:56 PM AEST | Updated 21/08/2017 10:56 PM AEST

Another inner Melbourne city council became the second local government body in as many weeks to vote to cancel Australia Day celebrations on Monday night.

The City of Darebin council, which covers suburbs in the northern area of the Melbourne CBD, voted 6-2 on a motion to move Australia Day citizenship ceremonies to January 25 and rename its yearly awards as the "Darebin Community Awards".

Local Greens councillor Trent McCarthy proposed the move last Friday in a decision he believed would be "acknowledging the extreme hurt" experienced by Indigenous Australians on January 26 each year.

"When you know what January 26 represents to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our community, and what it represents to those who have come to understand what it means, how can you possibly continue to have the national celebration on that day?" he said.

"I can't live with that decision and I'd like to think that in this chamber, and in our community... people have come to a position out of compassion and respect, and of doing what is right, not simply what is popular or what the press want us to do."

McCarthy, who represents Darebin in the Rucker Ward, also claimed the decision would allow Australians to "come to terms with the truths of this country to understand".

"We are at risk of losing our citizenship ceremonies but we need to make this change to respect our Indigenous people," he said.

The City of Darebin council is comprised of four Greens representatives, three independents and two members from the Labor Party.

The move follows an announcement by Yarra City Council last week to also cancel its Australia Day ceremonies out of respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The move means the council will no longer refer to January 26 as "Australia Day" or hold citizenship ceremonies on the day.

The local government body voted to instead use January 26 to hold a small-scale Indigenous-focused event to acknowledge "the loss of culture, language and identity felt by the Aboriginal community" on the anniversary of European settlers' landing in Australia.

Councillors voted unanimously for the changes last Tuesday night, despite pressure from the Federal Government to abandon them.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull slammed the move as an "attack" on Australia Day and "a repudiation of the values the day celebrates: freedom, a fair go, mateship and diversity". Later, assistant immigration minister Alex Hawke confirmed the government would hold true to its threats for councils who made similar decisions, and stripped Yarra of its power to hold citizenship ceremonies.

"The Melbourne local authority will be stripped of its power to hold any citizenship ceremonies following its political resolution which cancelled Australia Day citizenship formalities," a statement from Hawke said.

"The Government had already issued a warning to Yarra Council that such an action would be viewed by the Government as a significant breach of the Australian Citizenship Ceremonies Code ('the Code')."

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