A rally in support of indigenous rights and concerns about how Australia Day is represented and celebrated was held in Lismore on January 26, 2021. Photo: Alison Paterson
A rally in support of indigenous rights and concerns about how Australia Day is represented and celebrated was held in Lismore on January 26, 2021. Photo: Alison Paterson

Ballina council to ask PM to change date of Australia Day

Ballina Shire Council will write to Primer Minister Scott Morrison, asking him to seek an open debate about changing the date of Australia Day.

The idea was a foreshadowed motion from councillor Philip Meehan.

Mr Meehan apologised for missing the Ballina Shire's Australia Day ceremony on Tuesday.

"We all learn, we all change, and this is something I have changed my position on," he said.

"It is something that our nation, our community needs to address.

"People are celebrating the country and our achievements. However, we do know that for a large number of our indigenous people, that particular date is not one they can celebrate."

Cr Meehan said the current celebrations on January 26 started on 1994.

"It is an interesting question to debate, and I believe it's a matter that the Federal Government needs to address," he said.

"Our community, I believe, wants the government to address this situation."

Cr Ben Smith agreed with the idea.

"It would be very easy for the government at the federal level to change the national public holiday for next year, I don't see why they don't do that," he said.

Mayor David Wright also supported the motion.

"Until the last couple of years I have said, it's the 26, that's it, but recently I realised it would be nice if we could all celebrate together," he said.

The motion passed with only one vote against.

The initiative came from an original motion from Cr Jeff Johnson, debated earlier, to improve participation of Aboriginal organisation in the process of naming places in the shire.