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Darebin City Council Stripped Of Citizenship Powers After Australia Day Decision

A week after Yarra City Council also lost its hosting rights.

22/08/2017 4:03 PM AEST | Updated 22/08/2017 4:03 PM AEST

The Federal Government has stripped Darebin City Council of its power to hold Australia Day citizenship ceremonies after the Melbourne local government body voted on Monday night to cancel celebrations on the national day.

Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Alex Hawke said in a statement on Tuesday that "the Turnbull Government remains resolute in its commitment to safeguard the integrity of citizenship ceremonies in Australia".

The move comes a week after Hawke also stripped Yarra City Council of its right to host Australia Day events after it also voted to cancel ceremonies out of respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"This is the second time the Turnbull Government has acted to protect the integrity of the citizenship process," Hawke said in the statement.

"Both Darebin and Yarra Councils have had their ability to conduct citizenship ceremonies revoked. They were warned well in advance that politicising citizenship ceremonies would not be tolerated.

"The Government will ensure prospective citizens within Darebin and Yarra Councils are allocated to citizenship ceremonies held by neighbouring councils while the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will hold ceremonies as demand requires, including on Australia Day 2018."

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

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

In attempting to defend the decision, Darebin City Council mayor Kim Le Cerf was involved in a heated on-air exchange with 'Sunrise' co-host Samantha Armytage over the issue after it was revealed Monday night's vote was conducted following a survey of just 81 local residents out of a maximum population of almost 150,000.

"I think this is a question about whether we believe in representative democracy. There are many issues of important in terms of social justice that are taken by local government and I don't think that opinion polls should decide how we vote on them," Le Cerf said on Tuesday morning.

"But how is that a true reflection of what's going on in your shire? 81 out of 148,000," Armytage then asked.

"This isn't a question of making a decision of what is popular, this is a decision of what is right," Le Cerf responded.

"But aren't you elected to make a decision on behalf of the people of your shire?" the 'Sunrise co-host continued.

"In the best interests of our community, yes, and what we're hearing from our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is that January 26 represents or marks the beginning of invasion and dispossession and we think that it is inappropriate to be holding national celebrations on that day," the mayor said.

According to Hawke, Le Cerf's comments regarding any consultation with local Indigenous Australian residents prior to the vote appear incorrect, considering "the Council also failed to consult the only Indigenous Elder listed in the council's own multicultural directory, Wurundjeri Elder Ian Hunter".

Last week, in response to the Yarra City Council's vote, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull slammed the decision as an "attack" on Australia Day and "a repudiation of the values the day celebrates: freedom, a fair go, mateship and diversity".

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